WITA Webinar: Discussion of U.S.-China Relations and Trade with Congressman Darin LaHood (R-IL)
Wendy Cutler with the Washington International Trade Association (WITA)
On July 29th, Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) Vice President Wendy Cutler cohosted a webinar with the Washington International Trade Association (WITA). Cutler, along with WITA Executive Director Ken Levinson, interviewed Republican Congressman from the 18th District of Illinois Rep. Darin LaHood, who is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee and is a Co-Chair of the bipartisan U.S.-China Working Group, as well as a member of the Republican China Task Force, which is scheduled to release a new report near the end of September that LaHood previewed to Cutler and Levinson.
In a free-ranging discussion on China-related trade issues, Cutler and LaHood cover supply chains, the phase one trade agreement between the United States and China, the international sourcing of U.S. supplies of goods such as personal protective equipment, discussions about potential U.S.-China decoupling amid broader tensions, and the role of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which is currently undergoing a leadership transition.
The Congressman also shares his views on the effectiveness of using tariffs as a negotiating stick — despite the fact that they raise prices for American consumers and businesses — and he expresses concern about the progress of the purchasing commitments that China made in the phase one bilateral trade deal.
Cutler points out that, amid broader rising tensions, trade was no longer the source of bilateral friction between Washington and Beijing. "Ironically," she explains, "trade has become a bright spot in our relationship." But she cautions that the trade relationship remained very fragile, and it was too early to frame it as a strength of the bilateral relationship.
LaHood discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic further complicated the U.S. strategy when it comes to forcing China to adopt some long sought-after changes to its trading practices. For instance, he says that tariffs had effectively brought China to the table in 2018 and 2019, despite the fact that tariffs, or other forms of taxes, can act as a drag on the U.S. economy. He worries that, amid a pandemic-induced downturn, the United States would be less able to absorb that economic hit. "It becomes more difficult with an economy with 30 million people unemployed," to use some of the same tactics that U.S. trade negotiators had tried in the previous years, he says.