Trump trade chief vows ‘ac­tion’ as Ford shifts op­er­a­tion to China

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

Pres­i­dent Trump’s trade rep­re­sen­ta­tive on Thurs­day said the ad­min­is­tra­tion is pre­pared to “take ac­tion” af­ter Ford re­cently de­cided to shift op­er­a­tions and ex­port cars from China into the United States, also vow­ing to press China on other key is­sues like U.S. beef ex­ports and cloud com­put­ing.

U.S. Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Robert Lighthizer said he wants to take a closer look at Ford’s re­cently an­nounced de­ci­sion to move pro­duc­tion of its Fo­cus model to China rather than Mex­ico in the sec­ond half of 2019.

“I find that very trou­bling,” Mr. Lighthizer tes­ti­fied to mem­bers of the House Com­mit­tee on Ways and Means. “If it hap­pened for rea­sons that are noneco­nomic rea­sons, then I think the ad­min­is­tra­tion should take ac­tion.”

Mr. Trump fa­mously has tried to pres­sure U.S. car com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Ford, into keep­ing pro­duc­tion in the U.S., though Mr. Lighthizer said it’s likely too early to tie the pres­i­dent’s poli­cies to Ford’s ac­tions.

He spent much of the hear­ing be­fore Congress’ pri­mary tax-writ­ing com­mit­tee vow­ing to keep pres­sure on China in other ar­eas and ad­dress­ing con­cerns that Mr. Trump’s pulling out of the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship sig­naled a wan­ing U.S. in­ter­est in the re­gion.

“It’s im­per­a­tive we con­tinue to com­mu­ni­cate to our trad­ing part­ners [and] the rest of the world we are not aban­don­ing the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion even though we’re no longer part of TPP,” said Rep. Kevin Brady, Texas Repub­li­can and com­mit­tee chair­man.

Mr. Lighthizer said that U.S. trade val­ues, and not China’s, would ul­ti­mately pre­vail in the re­gion, and that Mr. Trump thinks the U.S. can get bet­ter deals on smaller, bi­lat­eral pacts com­pared to the TPP, which in­volved a dozen Pa­cific Rim coun­tries.

“We have to pre­vail, not just for our own good but the good of the world,” he said. “We have to take on China when they do things that are in­con­sis­tent with our val­ues, with the way we think the econ­omy should de­velop and work.”

The U.S. re­cently an­nounced a deal that opens up ex­ports of beef and other prod­ucts for sale to China.

But Rep. Kristi L. Noem said Aus­tralia al­ready has moved in with a new trade deal that could crowd the U.S. out of the mar­ket as China looks to increase its foot­print in the re­gion.

“As we work to mod­ern­ize NAFTA, other coun­tries are work­ing on free trade agree­ments, and we’re los­ing mar­ket share in for­eign economies,” said Ms. Noem, South Dakota Repub­li­can.

Mr. Lighthizer said it is “ex­tremely un­likely” the U.S. will end up in for­mal free trade ne­go­ti­a­tions with China, but that China’s $350 bil­lion trade sur­plus with the U.S. means it could be apt to bring in more Amer­i­can-made prod­ucts.

“In the his­tory of the world, there’s never been any­thing so im­bal­anced as that, and that gives us a cer­tain amount of lever­age,” he said.

Rep. Suzan K. DelBene, Wash­ing­ton Demo­crat, asked Mr. Lighthizer about China’s poli­cies on cloud com­put­ing reg­u­la­tions. She said the rules make it dif­fi­cult for U.S. com­pa­nies to op­er­ate there, and that a draft pro­posal could force U.S. cloud providers to make in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty con­ces­sions.

“We are rais­ing our com­plaints with the Chi­nese, and we’re look­ing at all of our op­tions,” Mr. Lighthizer said. “We are en­gaged on it.”

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