Trump’s Top Trade Negotiator Says China Unprecedented Threat (1)

(Bloomberg) — China’s economic model represents an “unprecedented” threat to the world trading system that can’t be addressed under current global rules, President Donald Trump’s top trade negotiator said.

“There is one challenge on the current scene that is substantially more difficult than those faced in the past, and that is China,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Monday in a speech in Washington. “The sheer scale of their coordinated effort to develop their economy, to subsidize, to create national champions, to force technology transfers and to distort markets in China and throughout the world is a threat to the world trading system that is unprecedented.”

The World Trade Organization and the rules that underlie the international trade arbitrator weren’t designed to deal with China’s current approach to its economy, he said.

Lighthizer said he doesn’t want to jump to any conclusions from an ongoing USTR investigation into alleged intellectual property violations by China under Section 301 of the Trade Act. The provision allows the president to unilaterally impose tariffs and other restrictions to protect U.S. industries from unfair trade practices by foreign nations.

Lighthizer said that he doesn’t want to prejudge the investigation’s outcome, but he gets “an awful lot of complaints,” especially from American chief executives from major companies about having to hand over their technology to joint-venture partners in China, and on the issue of Chinese piracy.

First Speech

It was the first major public speech by Lighthizer, 69, who was confirmed in May as USTR. He worked for decades as a trade lawyer, representing clients including U.S. Steel Corp. He served as a deputy USTR under Ronald Reagan, earning a reputation as a hard-nosed negotiator. He also has deep political experience from his time as a senior aide to former Senate Finance Committee Chairman Bob Dole.

Lighthizer’s comments on China may damp speculation that the departure of White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, a staunch economic nationalist, would lead to a less hawkish tone on trade from the White House. While Trump has backed down from labeling China a currency manipulator and eased the gas pedal on slapping tariffs on…

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