Free traders applaud Trump as China tariff threat recedes

Free traders applaud Trump as China tariff threat recedes
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Free traders and conservatives concerned with the possibility of a trade war applauded the Trump administration’s move away from threats of steep tariffs on China, a position that had put Trump at odds with many of his partisan allies.

Club for Growth, a conservative advocacy group, applauded the administration “for putting its trade war with China on hold.” 

“This sends a very positive signal and is an encouraging sign as our nation moves forward with trade negotiations,” Club for Growth president David McIntosh said.

The administration announced progress in its trade talks with China on Sunday, though the negotiations did not yield concrete achievements. 

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTrump considering meeting with China's Xi next month to finish trade deal U.S. farm exports expected to drop nearly billion amid US-China trade dispute Huawei CEO: Daughter's arrest was 'politically motivated' MORE told Fox News that the progress made in the talks was enough to pause the threatened trade war, in which both the U.S. and China had threatened tariffs on billions of dollars worth of goods.

“We’re putting the trade war on hold, so right now we have agreed to put the tariffs on hold,” Mnuchin said.

Freedom Partners, a right-leaning advocacy group, applauded the move, but called for further action. 

“We encourage the administration to take tariffs off the table completely,” Freedom Partners Executive Vice President Nathan Nascimento said. 

“They only benefit a few politically connected companies. That truth was demonstrated again this year as affected workers and businesses paid the price in higher costs and greater uncertainty,” he added.

Trump’s aggressive trade actions have been a source of contention in the GOP, which has traditionally promoted a free trade agenda. Many Republicans chafed at Trump’s decisions to propose tariffs on China, his threat to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and his imposition of tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum.

“I’ve said all along I think the administration is playing with real fire with regard to tariffs,” said Rep. Mark SanfordMarshall (Mark) Clement SanfordEndorsing Trump isn’t the easiest decision for some Republicans Mark Sanford warns US could see ‘Hitler-like character’ in the future House passes year-end tax package MORE (R-S.C.), ahead of the latest development in the trade talks. 

Sanford questioned whether the administration’s aim of forcing China to buy more American goods was economically coherent.

“They are temporary fixes. I don’t know whether or not they have lasting value,” he said, pointing to issues such as the low American savings rate as a structural deficit driver.

Free trade-oriented Democrats, on the other hand, criticized Trump for failing to secure specific, achievable commitments. 

“While we are relieved the administration is backing away from a trade war with China, the strategy only shows this administration’s weakness in diplomacy by allowing China to buy their way out instead of making real reform,” Reps. Rick LarsenRichard (Rick) Ray LarsenDems face tough vote on Green New Deal Aviation groups push bill that would fund FAA during shutdown Transportation Department watchdog to examine airplane cabin evacuation standards MORE (D-Wash.) and Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksDem rep: Sanders should register as a Democrat Protesters interrupt Elliott Abrams during Venezuela hearing Dem behind impeachment push to boycott State of the Union MORE (D-N.Y.), who head up the trade task force of the free trade-oriented New Democrats Coalition, said in a statement.  

“The administration accepted a soft commitment from China to import more American energy and agriculture goods. This is great on its face, but will hardly put a dent in the trade deficit with China,” they added.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDon’t look for House GOP to defy Trump on border wall GOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats National emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win MORE (D-N.Y.) also hit the administration for failing to win specific commitments on intellectual property theft, a central bone of contention with China. 

“As I've always said, when it comes to being tough on China’s trading practices, I'm closer to Trump than Obama or Bush,” Schumer said. “But the president and his team have to stick with it, be strong, and not sell out for a temporary purchase of goods without addressing the real issue: the theft of American intellectual property which will cost us millions of American jobs in the long run.”

The statement came in response to a tweet from Trump on the issue.

“I ask Senator Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDon’t look for House GOP to defy Trump on border wall GOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats National emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win MORE, why didn’t President Obama & the Democrats do something about Trade with China, including Theft of Intellectual Property etc.? They did NOTHING! With that being said, Chuck & I have long agreed on this issue! Fair Trade, plus, with China will happen!” Trump wrote.