Before Donald Trump took office, Washington policymakers did nothing while China stole our intellectual property and technology, manipulated its currency, and created an unlevel playing field that gave us annual trade deficits of roughly $400 billion. Their response to China’s unfair trade practices and abuses? A string of ineffective “dialogues” and toothless deals — many unwritten and unsigned, and all unenforceable.
Perhaps even worse, they welcomed China into the World Trade Organization under a weak accession agreement, where China continued to flout the rule of law and undermine international agreements. This cost the United States millions of manufacturing jobs and trillions of dollars in accumulated trade deficits while causing immeasurable harm to the lives of American workers and the communities they call home.
President Trump has taken a far different approach. In fact, Donald Trump is the only president to meaningfully confront China’s abusive trade policies. He has done what his critics from previous administrations were unable or unwilling to do: stand up to China, get them to the negotiating table and secure a strong, enforceable trade agreement.
The groundbreaking U.S.-China Phase One Economic and Trade Agreement he signed in January stops forced technology transfer, protects our intellectual property, promotes U.S. financial services, removes barriers to trade, and creates long-term market access for American exports in manufacturing, agriculture and more. For the first time, these commitments from China are in writing and are fully enforceable.
Mr. Trump is also maintaining pressure on China through tariffs on $370 billion in exports to the United States, including nearly all Chinese-made high-tech products. Not only do these tariffs help offset the unfair advantage China obtained through forced technology transfers and market-distorting subsidies, they also provide leverage for continued negotiations to address other significant problems in our trade relationship.
Although Phase One has been in effect for only a few months — and during a time of unexpected and unprecedented global health and economic challenges — China is making good progress toward fulfilling its obligations. The major structural changes called for in the agreement are taking shape.
Because of the Phase One deal, China is finally taking action to address numerous and long-standing intellectual property concerns. So far, China has issued more than a dozen measures to implement these changes that are required by the agreement.
Of the 57 regulatory and structural changes that China committed to make in agriculture, China has already completed 50. This has led to significant new market access for U.S. poultry, beef, dairy, grains, seafood and more. Since the Phase One agreement went into effect, we have already seen record annual shipments of American pork and beef, and are on track to set an annual record for corn exports. Over the past 10 weeks, almost half of reported U.S. agriculture export sales of bulk commodities have gone to China. Before Phase One, only 1,500 U.S. facilities were eligible to export agricultural products to China. Now, more than 4,000 facilities are eligible. Our farmers and ranchers have better long-term access to China’s agriculture and food markets than ever before.
Since the agreement was signed, exports of U.S. manufacturing products to China have increased and China has removed discriminatory barriers to open up its financial services sector to U.S.-owned enterprises, including life, pension and health insurance, securities, fund management and futures services. This allows U.S. companies to compete on a more level playing field in China.
Again, all the commitments made by China on intellectual property protection, currency manipulation, forced technology transfer, opening its markets and more are in writing and are fully enforceable. Phase One’s chapter on dispute resolution establishes regular bilateral consultations, puts in place procedures for addressing disagreements and allows each party to take proportionate responsive actions if necessary. As part of this enforcement process, the Trump administration constantly monitors China’s progress on implementing its obligations. The United States fully expects China to meet all of its commitments under the agreement and will take appropriate responsive actions if China does not.
Of course, it will take more than our Phase One agreement to achieve a fair and balanced U.S.-China trade relationship. Fortunately, the tariffs the president is maintaining on Chinese imports put the United States in a strong position to achieve even more progress in future negotiations.
As a candidate for the nation’s highest office, President Trump promised to take bold action and confront Chinese trade practices that hurt American workers, farmers and businesses. He has kept that promise, and his efforts have yielded a transformative trade deal that brings real benefits to all Americans.
• Robert Lighthizer is the U.S. Trade Representative.