Trade war, day 181: Lighthizer may push for more tariffs

Foreign Affairs

There is not much news in the U.S.-China trade war since last Friday, when we highlighted for Access members (paywall) that Foxconn may be moving a large amount of iPhone production to India and Vietnam. But two insightful pieces on Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. Trade Representative leading negotiations, have been published and are worth a read.

  • “Lighthizer remains deeply skeptical of Beijing and has warned Mr. Trump that the United States may need to exert more pressure through additional tariffs in order to win true concessions,” the New York Times reports (porous paywall).
  • “Lighthizer wants to limit China’s influence, even if he has to break the American-made economic order to do it,” the Atlantic says in an in-depth profile of his contrarian trade law career stretching back to the 1980s.

Both pieces indicate that Lighthizer is enjoying immense influence in the Trump administration at the moment. “Lighthizer is still riding a NAFTA high within the administration,” the Atlantic writes, referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement, recently renegotiated as the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement, though not yet approved by the U.S. Congress. The Times adds that Lighthizer has a waterfront condo in Palm Beach, Florida, very near Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, so he accompanies the president on his frequent wintertime golfing retreats.

Another piece of significant U.S.-China news also comes from the New York Times:

  • All of the “more than 20” American cultural centers established at Chinese universities in the past decade are now closed, after interference by Chinese authorities, the Times reports (porous paywall).
  • “From January 2016 to April 2017, there were 153 instances of Chinese thwarting the work of the American public affairs officials, including with the centers,” according to a State Department inspector general report. Former ambassador Max Baucus and current ambassador Terry Branstad were both denied access to American cultural centers at Chinese universities.
  • Meanwhile, in the U.S., some Chinese-government-funded Confucius Institutes have been closed by universities in FloridaNorth CarolinaMichigan, and other states, though dozens remain open. Outside of the U.S., Confucius Institutes continue to rapidly spread.

More links related to U.S.-China relations, including the detentions of Canadians and indicators in the Chinese economy:

Previously in SupChina’s trade war coverage:

Trade war, day 175: Qualitative measures and detained Canadians