Will Washington do what’s in the interest of the nation or what’s in the short-term interest of Wall Street and a small number of businesses?
That’s the central question in our trade relations with China.
The Trump administration has chosen to do what’s in the national interest.
Twenty years ago, Congress voted to establish permanent normal trade relations with China, giving the communist regime in Beijing the same preferential trade treatment we accord our best allies, Western industrial democracies such as Great Britain and Germany.
In doing so, Washington gave multinational corporations the long-term certainty they needed to make massive investments in the People’s Republic of China and replace well-paid American workers with poorly paid Chinese workers by moving factories from Michigan to Shenzen.
The late Sen. Jesse Helms, arch-conservative from North Carolina, opposed the measure.
Helms told his fellow senators, “There’s no question that giving permanent most favored nation trade status to China may advance the business interests of various sectors of the U.S. corporate community, but the Senate, amidst all the high pressure tactics, must not confuse business interests with the national interest of the American people.”
His warning was prescient.
Unfortunately, Washington didn’t take it, and instead confused business interests with the national interest.
Policymakers convinced themselves that as China grew more prosperous it would become a democratic, free market ally of the U.S.
It hardened into an article of faith that what’s good for China is good for America. Vice President Joe Biden voiced that sentiment perfectly when he said, “It is overwhelmingly in our interest that China prosper.”
As global corporations left heartland America where they were born and grew up to relocate to China, corporate profits soared while the Americans they left behind sank into unemployment, depression, alcoholism and drug addiction.
And the companies who did business in China became China’s lobbyists in Washington.
These companies, fearing reprisals from China’s all-powerful communist party bosses if they spoke up, asked Washington to remain silent while Beijing hacked our computers, stole our government, military and trade secrets, and reneged on promises to open its market.
Putting business interests before national interest, Wall Street and Washington consultants made fortunes for themselves arranging business deals in, with, or on behalf of China even as the Chinese Communist Party built a world-class military, persecuted people of faith and widened its espionage and influence operations inside the U.S.
Now China is doing openly what it long did behind closed doors: ask American businesses to push Beijing’s party line in Washington.
Narrow self-interest and fear of Beijing’s commissars motivates the import lobby and other business entities who ask President Trump to immediately drop tariffs on China’s illegally subsidized imports and make a deal, any deal, with China now now now.
Keep that in mind when you see critics of the administration’s policies wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth about “the impact tariffs have on consumers.”
These critics showed no concern when American producers — the working men and women of this country — were stripped of their jobs and their ability to earn a living and support a family and were reduced to simply consumers on the welfare rolls.
These critics who voice faux concern over “consumers pay the price of tariffs” ignore the facts and the evidence. In fact, inflation is virtually flat. The evidence shows outsourcing jobs to China has caused a drop in Americans’ disposable income that more than offsets any illusory gain from nominally cheaper imported goods.
For too long, our government accommodated corporate interest in short-term profits even though it hurt to the national interest of America and its citizens.
President Trump is standing up to China and standing up for the forgotten men and women who were kicked to the curb in the headlong rush to make a quick buck.
President Donald J. Trump is putting America First. That means all of America.
Curtis Ellis is senior policy adviser with America First Policies. He was a senior policy adviser with the Donald J. Trump campaign.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.