Intervention in Huawei Arrest Would Set Dangerous Precedent

Wendy Cutler on CNN Newsroom

The following is the complete transcript of ASPI Vice President Wendy Cutler's interview with Brooke Baldwin of CNN Newsroom on December 13, 2018.

Brooke Baldwin: With me now, Wendy Cutler, former acting deputy U.S. trade representative in the Obama administration. She was responsible for Trans-Pacific Partnership (the TPP deal), U.S.-Korea free trade deal. When you wrote that using this arrest for political ends would encourage China to essentially fight back, did Trump make it clear that that is exactly what he is doing?

Wendy Cutler: What is happening it is hard to keep up with all of these developments. It is interesting that the President is seeming to suggest that we may be willing to go soft on law enforcement issues if China makes big moves on the trade front. And, in fact, the trade talks are moving ahead. But, the Chinese now seem to be taking their anger and retaliation out against Canada, where the senior Huawei executive is being detained.

Brooke Baldwin: What kind of precedent would this set?

Wendy Cutler: I think a very dangerous precedent. I think it seems to be suggesting that if someone violates U.S. law, maybe we can ‘close our eyes’ and put the issue to aside if we can get the country to buy more soybeans or open their market to autos. In addition, I think it really complicates the trade negotiations. They are complicated enough. China has kept these issues so far with the United States on separate lanes. And now sending the signal to China that it is kind of all on the table and maybe it can all get muddled up, I think this can complicate the ability to achieve success in the trade talks, not provide the leverage that the President is suggesting.

Brooke Baldwin: So, what would you then say to critics of the Obama administration, saying that people were used then as chips in the Iran deal?

Wendy Cutler: I do not know the specifics of that, but I am not saying that there are no instances where one does not look at the overall relationship and make decisions. But in this instance, a senior Huawei executive is being charged with bank fraud. That is a very serious alleged violation. And for law enforcement authorities, it must be the result of a long investigation, and once again, sending the signal that we may be willing to trade this away, just seems to go against everything we stood for, with respect to rule of law. And it really sends a green light to China and to other countries, that maybe the door is open for them to be conflating such issues as well.

Brooke Baldwin: If you were a U.S. diplomat or some top business leader and you were traveling to China right about now, would you be a little nervous?

Wendy Cutler: Yes, I would be extremely careful now. So far, U.S. executives seem to be safe but I do not think this incident is over yet. I think, over the next few days and even the next month or so, things will unfold and, perhaps, other law enforcement actions will be taken against China as well.