Lighthizer Says China Trade Deal Must Be Sustainable

The top U.S. trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer said Wednesday that any deal reached between the United States and China will require much more work and must be enforceable.

“I don’t think we should accept anything that doesn’t have structural changes and is enforceable. Absolutely not,” he stressed.

Lighthizer made the comments before the House Ways and Means Committee, telling lawmakers the potential agreement also has to include commitments by China to make significant reforms to its economy, in particular in areas of intellectual property rights and technology transfers.

“Let me be clear: much still needs to be done both before an agreement is reached and, more importantly, after it is reached, if one is reached,” Lighthizer told the House panel, according to Politico.

The President’s top trade negotiator contradicted his boss Wednesday, maintaining that there also has to be a mechanism to ensure that China is adhering to these rules and that any violations would draw a “proportional” and “unilateral” response on the U.S. part.

“I’m not foolish enough to think that there’s going to be one negotiation that’s going to change all the practices of China or our relationship with them,” Lighthizer noted.

President Donald Trump recently said the two sides were “very, very close” to striking a deal and that he would be signing one very soon with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Lighthizer gave no indication when such a summit would take place nor gave a deadline for that to happen.

He further maintained that the U.S. will not accept what he called a “soybean solution,” that is a deal based only on a promise by China to import more American soybeans, Bloomberg reports. His comments were echoed by Democratic Congressman Earl Blumenauer, who argued such a deal would not be sustainable.

“This administration is pressing for significant structural changes that would allow for a more level playing field,” Lighthizer said. “We need new rules.”

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