As a Main Street entrepreneur, I believe in free trade. But my experience as a business owner also showed me the dire threat China poses to the American economic system: that’s why I have President Trump’s back as he closes the deal with China.
President Trump was elected because he offered a new approach in Washington, and I paid close attention as I ran my business back in Indiana. It used to be easy to buy made in America, but while China grew, I became increasingly concerned as my suppliers moved from South Bend, Noblesville, and Gary, Ind., to Shenzhen, Ningbo, and Guangzhou. This wasn’t free trade, it was a trading partner using its state economic model to take advantage of American workers, farmers and businesses.
President Trump and his team understand that we’ve been at this game a long time. These talks did not start with Donald Trump, but with President Reagan, who initiated negotiations to open the Chinese economy in 1983. President Bush elevated the talks in 2003, and again in 2006. By 2009, though the negotiations had failed to resolve major economic issues between our two economies, the Obama administration chose to keep talking. Meanwhile, China continued to take advantage of our economic system.
When President Trump took office, he offered the Chinese multiple chances to communicate through the economic dialogue process they’d grown accustomed to. The president invited Chinese President Xi to the United States, where they launched the Comprehensive Economic Dialogue in April 2017. However, the Chinese continued their decades-long tactic of offering meager concessions and stalling meaningful economic reforms. The American people could not accept those results.
After five months of stonewalling by the Chinese, President Trump signed an executive order launching an investigation into the root of Chinese economic aggression. The results noted that the Chinese were stealing American technology, discriminating against U.S. licenses, forcing unreasonable joint ventures, and hacking into American businesses.
If you only watched cable news, you might think that it was President Trump who fired the first shots; that is simply not the case. China’s unfair tactics on the world economic stage have created a deep imbalance in our trade relationship, and these inequities will never become easier to address.
President Trump recognizes that we have one opportunity to address our trade imbalances with China, and his tax relief and deregulation efforts have finally given us a booming American economy that can withstand a little pain for the greater good. Where politicians have kicked the can down the road, President Trump is taking action.
We in Congress should do our part by passing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) this summer, solidifying terms with our most important trading partners and locking in 21st century rules that make it harder for state-owned enterprises to manipulate the North American market. USMCA would also relieve some of the pressure that is hurting our farmers, ranchers, and growers, and its approval is critical to ensure that the U.S. can put the best face forward as President Trump works to open the Chinese market.
President Trump has approached this long-standing problem with a comprehensive strategy that I support, has made more progress than nearly any other president on this issue, and should be commended as he closes this long-overdue and historic forty-year negotiation.
Braun is the junior senator from Indiana.