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Trump Touts Tough-on-China Trade Platform and ‘Universal’ Tariffs

As former President Donald Trump eyes a potential second term, his campaign is out with a new, “America-first” plan taking aim at China.

Attacking President Joe Biden’s “weak on Chinatrade policy, Trump created Agenda 47 to “take a sledgehammer to globalism” by imposing universal baseline tariffs on most foreign-made products. The strategy would reward domestic producers while taxing overseas suppliers, the campaign wrote in a memo Monday.

On top of the new standardized duties, “higher tariffs will increase incrementally depending on how much individual foreign countries devalue their currency,” Trump said—a strategy routinely used by competitors “to take advantage of the United States, and they subsidize their industries, or otherwise engage in trade cheating and abuse.”

Trump also wants U.S. companies to pay “substantially” lower taxes. “Not only will this system end our gaping trade deficits… it will also bring trillions and trillions of dollars pouring into the U.S. Treasury from foreign countries and allow us to invest that money in American workers, American families, and American communities,” he wrote.

The new tariff structure would be the “linchpin” of the “Strategic National Manufacturing Initiative,” which would include a series of trade reforms that Trump said would end U.S. dependence on China. Other elements of the plan include revoking China’s Most Favored Nation trade status, adopting a four-year plan to phase out Chinese imports of essential goods like electronics, steel and pharmaceuticals, and developing protections to ensure the sourcing superpower can’t flout restrictions by routing goods through other nations.

“We will also adopt new rules to stop U.S. companies from pouring investments into China, and to stop China from buying up America, allowing all of those investments that clearly serve American interests,” Trump added, noting his aim to cancel federal contracts for any company that outsources to China.

Trump is ramping up the tough-on-China rhetoric amid increasing tensions between the U.S. and its top competitor. Officials this week traded barbs on China’s purported role in the war in Ukraine, with a U.S. Department of State spokesperson calling the country “anything but an honest broker” of the peace negotiations it claims to be facilitating. While Trump’s jabs at his likely 2024 rival aim to paint a picture of acquiescence and capitulation to China, Biden on Friday authorized sanctions aimed at Chinese individuals and companies. The Biden administration hasn’t repealed Trump-era punitive tariffs on China-made goods, which have generated more than $150 billion in duty payments, despite calls from U.S. industry leaders to do so.

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New House committee

Meanwhile, a new, bipartisan House committee aimed at addressing China’s economic, security, and technology impacts on the U.S. convened for its first hearing Tuesday evening. The Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party, headed by committee Chairman Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and ranking member Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, (D-Ill.), has vowed to hold China accountable for actions that threaten U.S. interests while implementing policies that promote U.S. competitiveness.

During the inaugural hearing, the committee approved seven out of 10 proposed bills, three of which were aimed at providing protections and advocacy for Taiwan, including sanctions against China should the island be invaded, as well as legislation aimed at stopping fentanyl produced in China from making its way into U.S. communities.

The three final bills focused on addressing China’s economic impacts, from the Chinese Currency Accountability Act, which would compel the Treasury Secretary to “oppose an increase in the weight of China’s renminbi in the basket of currencies determining the value of Special Drawing Rights,” to the China Financial Threat Mitigation Act, which would require the Treasury Secretary to report on global economic risks stemming from the Chinese financial sector. Finally, the China Exchange Rate Transparency Act would require the U.S. Director at the International Monetary Fund to “advocate for greater transparency in China’s disclosure of its exchange rate policies.”

House members must vote on the bills before they advance to the Senate for passage.

 “At our best, this committee can help us as Americans to ‘up our game’ as a people—for example, through investments in technologies of the future, workforce improvement, and by fixing weaknesses in our economy, such as in our supply chains and our legal immigration system,” Rep. Krishnamoorthi said during his opening address. “As a committee, we must use the insights we learn here today to make our country stronger at home and more secure in the world.”