Free traders applaud Trump as China tariff threat recedes

Free traders applaud Trump as China tariff threat recedes
© Getty Images

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 says he'll decide on foreign aid cuts within a week Democrats push judge for quick action on Trump tax returns lawsuit Five key players in Trump's trade battles 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 SanfordScaramucci assembling team of former Cabinet members to speak out against Trump Sunday shows - Recession fears dominate Possible GOP challenger says Trump doesn't deserve reelection, but would vote for him over Democrat 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 LarsenTwo Democrats vow to press forward on Trump impeachment Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment WHIP LIST: The 127 House Democrats backing an impeachment inquiry MORE (D-Wash.) and Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksEmbattled Juul seeks allies in Washington House Democrat knocks Trump's Cummings tweet: 'This guy is a terrible, terrible human being' Pelosi backers feel vindicated after tumultuous stretch 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 SchumerSaagar Enjeti: Biden's latest blunder; Krystal Ball: Did Schumer blow our chance to beat McConnell? Johnson eyes Irish border in Brexit negotiations Lewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going 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 SchumerSaagar Enjeti: Biden's latest blunder; Krystal Ball: Did Schumer blow our chance to beat McConnell? Johnson eyes Irish border in Brexit negotiations Lewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going 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.