US – China Summit: If Trade Was Trade…

Today the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue begins in Washington. This is the third such meeting, and it’s time for the Obama administration to get it right. China has not been engaging in “trade” with us, they have been engaging in something else entirely.
The Washington Post sets the stage, with an editorial, The U.S. must push back against China’s investment controls

…It is still holding the renminbi at about 25 or 30 percent below its probable market value. … Beijing has increasingly used government procurement rules, technical standards and tax laws to force foreign companies to transfer their technology to state-owned Chinese firms in return for access to the Chinese market. … Beijing’s objective is the mercantilist one of building up state-owned “national champion” firms that can then capture global markets from Japanese, European and U.S. competitors. No matter that the state-owned sector already receives massive official support, direct and indirect — while more efficient private-sector job- creators must scramble for resources.

Last week’s Let Trade Be Trade, explains,

Since China’s admission into the World Trade Organization we have been packing up our factories and sending them over there. We have been buying so many things made in China, but they have not been buying very many things made here, and the resulting “trade deficit” has gotten worse year after year. Everyone is afraid of what China might do with all those trillion$ in US Bonds they have accumulated. … There is a better way to solve the problem: let trade BE trade.

Time To Buy From Us
There is a simple solution: tell them to start actually trading with us,

When the meeting begins Secretaries Clinton (State) and Geithner (Treasury) and Locke (Commerce) should slide a big stack of order forms across the table and say, “Your turn. Let us take your orders now, please.”

China has been selling but not buying and it’s time for them to to start buying. That way we might be able use the word “trade” without wincing. It would also help fix our economy, our budget deficit, our unemployment rate and many other pressing problems.
China Holds $1.5 Trillion Of Our Debt
Trade by definition is a two-way street, buying from and selling to others. But China has accumulated $1.5 trillion by selling to us and not buying from us. This one-sided “trade” relationship has hurt or killed industries, companies, factories and jobs here in the United States, while forcing wages and living standards to drop. It has also placed China in an unhealthy position of power over us.
It is understandable that some American interests have benefited from this arrangement, becoming fabulously wealthy while at the same time strengthening their whip-hand by pitting China’s low-wage rights-suppressed workers against American employees who have enjoyed all the protections and benefits of democracy. But it is not clear why our own government has gone along. It is obvious now to all that the one-way arrangement with China has hurt us, closed our factories, devastated our “rust-belt” communities, created vast income disparities and created terrible imbalances in the world’s economy.
Placing Orders Here Fixes Both Economies
If China were to place orders tomorrow for $1.5 trillion in American-made goods, the effect on our economy, unemployment level, manufacturing base, budget deficit, state budget shortfalls, public-employee pensions, and a host of other problems would be immediate and dramatic.
And with our economy and wages restored, our own orders of goods from China would increase, boosting their economy, too. Their trade manipulations are costing them. Workers, facing labor-rights suppression and import restrictions from joining the world’s economy, are increasingly restless. They face inflation and a pending financial crisis. And that huge cash reserve is increasingly at risk from the worldwide imbalances it causes. If China repositioned its policies from mercantilism to trade it would fix so many problems. So why don’t they?
If Not Trade, What?
If China were using trade to build their economy they would use that $1.5 trillion dollar reserve to place orders here for American-made goods, boosting our economy, and boosting our ability to trade further with them. But they are not. They are sacrificing their own economic position to instead build their power position.
China is cleverly using the greed and power of our Chamber of Commerce, huge multinationals, Wall Street, etc, to manipulate our government into letting them to sell China the rope to hang us with. The more China continues these manipulations even at its own expense, the more we should perhaps be understanding these imbalances as a national security problem instead of a trade problem.
China isn’t trading, it is seizing the means of production. It is using manipulations of trade to gather wealth and power to itself at the expense of the rest of the world. It is vitally important for US opinion leaders and policymakers to address this. We have been hypnotized by the word “trade” and the result is we are ignoring our national security. We are not minding our business.
It is time to tell them to start trading fair or we’ll start minding our business with a big, fat tariff on imports so we can start paying down our deficits and rebuilding our manufacturing and jobs base.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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