Business Leaders Want Changes in China Trade, Just Not Trump’s Tariffs

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When President Trump announced earlier this year that he planned to impose tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods imported into the United States, the Business Roundtable, a group of CEOs representing most of the largest U.S. companies, spoke out against those tariffs. Adding another $200 billion in tariffed goods is not going to change their minds.

In early June the group opposed Trump’s plan to impose Section 301 tariffs governing intellectual property, technology transfer and innovation, and even more strenuously opposed Section 232 tariffs imposed on national security grounds.

In a statement published on the Business Roundtable website Tuesday morning, the group tries to soften their stance:

The Administration has correctly identified the real problem of China’s discriminatory trade practices. But unilaterally imposing tariffs is the wrong way to achieve real reforms, with this latest escalation threatening further harm to U.S. businesses and workers.

Business Roundtable’s recommendations for reforms – both to liberalize the Chinese market and ensure fair treatment of U.S. companies – should be used by the Administration to guide their negotiations with China. Moreover, the Administration should work with allies who are aligned with these goals to create a united global front for long-term reforms in China.

In July the Roundtable published their three overarching priorities for negotiations with China: expand near-term market access for U.S. exporters and investors; curb overcapacity and eliminate state subsidies and other programs that “undermine fair competition”; and remove restrictions on digital trade and tear down the Great Firewall of China.

The president was not interested and none of these recommendations has been adopted.

So why has the Roundtable’s rhetoric softened? Has the president truly “identified the real problem” that exists between the United States and China? For that matter, has the Business Roundtable clearly identified the problem? Check out the July document outlining its recommendations.

Trade relations between the United States and China have escalated way past these recommendations already. Trade wars may be good and easy to win, as Trump has said, but once started they’re hard to stop until both sides have shed some blood. The winner is assumed to be the one that sheds the least blood.