WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Donald Trump on Tuesday (Feb 6) told Congress that Washington’s aggressive trade negotiations with Beijing would mean an end to China’s alleged “theft” of US jobs and wealth.
In his annual State of the Union address, Trump also called on China to make the kind of far-reaching “structural” changes to industrial policy that analysts say Beijing is likely to resist.
The world’s two largest economies have 24 days left in a three-month truce in their trade war before US duty rates are due to rise sharply – an escalation that economists say could be a powerful negative shock to the global economy.
“We are now making it clear to China that after years of targeting our industries, and stealing our intellectual property, the theft of American jobs and wealth has come to an end,” Trump said in his annual State of the Union address.
Any agreement with Beijing “must include real, structural change to end unfair trade practices,” Trump said.
Last week, top US and Chinese officials proclaimed progress and comity after two days of talks in Washington, but they disclosed few details.
Washington and Beijing have slapped punishing tariffs on more than US$360 billion (S$486 billion) in two-way trade, which has weighed on the two countries’ manufacturing sectors and sent jitters through global markets.
The US trade deficit has swelled more than 18 per cent since Trump took office, rising far faster than economic growth, and has hit record heights with China in particular.
The president also renewed his often-repeated falsehood that China was paying the US import duties on its exports.
“Our Treasury is receiving billions of dollars a month from a country that never gave us a dime,” Trump said.
In fact, such duties are paid by US importers, with costs in many cases passed on to consumers.
Trump also lauded signs of US economic strength, including robust job creation and falling unemployment.
“We are considered far and away the hottest economy anywhere in the world,” Trump said. “Unemployment has reached the lowest rate in over half a century.”
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office predicts the US economy will slow this year and the year after that as the effects of 2017’s sweeping tax overhaul fade.
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