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.

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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 MnuchinHillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Bezos phone breach raises fears over Saudi hacking | Amazon seeks to halt Microsoft's work on 'war cloud' | Lawmakers unveil surveillance reform bill On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Mnuchin says officials working on new tax cuts | Watchdog charges former execs over Wells Fargo accounts scandal | Study questions Biden, Sanders tax plan claims CRA modernization: A once-in-a-generation opportunity 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. 

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“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 SanfordMark SanfordTrump challenger Bill Weld rules out 2020 independent bid Judge throws out lawsuit against South Carolina GOP for canceling 2020 primary The Hill's Campaign Report: Late bids surprise 2020 Democratic field 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 LarsenAviation chairmen cite safety, new tech among concerns for the future The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Diplomat's 'powerful' testimony and 'lynching' attract headlines The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Trump's impeachment plea to Republicans MORE (D-Wash.) and Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksOcasio-Cortez defends decision not to pay dues to House Democratic campaign arm Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Facebook deepfake ban falls short | House passes bills to win 5G race | Feds sound alarm on cyberthreat from Iran | Ivanka Trump appearance at tech show sparks backlash House Democrats urge financial regulators to defend against Iranian cyberattacks 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 urges declassification of letter from Pence aide No rush to judgment on Trump — it's been ongoing since Election Day Collins walks impeachment tightrope 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 urges declassification of letter from Pence aide No rush to judgment on Trump — it's been ongoing since Election Day Collins walks impeachment tightrope 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.