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 MnuchinLawmakers run into major speed bumps on spending bills The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump, Graham clash over Iran policy Liz Cheney calls for 'proportional military response' against Iran 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 SanfordPoll: Bill Weld leads among Trump GOP challengers with 5 percent support Mark Sanford debates cardboard cutout of Trump to protest South Carolina canceling its GOP primary Joe Walsh: GOP is a 'cult' and Trump a 'would-be dictator' 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 LarsenHouse Democrats blur lines on support for impeachment Two Democrats vow to press forward on Trump impeachment Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment MORE (D-Wash.) and Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksTen notable Democrats who do not favor impeachment Embattled Juul seeks allies in Washington House Democrat knocks Trump's Cummings tweet: 'This guy is a terrible, terrible human being' 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 SchumerSchumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill Sinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall 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 SchumerSchumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill Sinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall 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.