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Schumer: 'Big Pat on the Back' for Trump on China Tariffs After Bush, Obama 'Inaction'

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) speaks with reporters following weekly policy luncheons on Capitol Hill on March 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) gave President Trump “a big pat on the back” in a Senate floor speech this morning for the White House plan to slap $50 billion in new tariffs and trade actions on China over intellectual property theft.

A senior administration official told reporters on a call this morning that Trump would direct the U.S. trade representative to “publish a proposed list of products, and any intended tariff increase within 15 days of the signing of the memorandum,” thus crafting the final tariff list after a period of notice and comment.

“The president is also going to request and direct the U.S. trade representative to pursue dispute settlement in the World Trade Organization to address China’s discriminatory licensing practices,” the official said. “And he will also direct the secretary of treasury, within 60 days, to propose executive branch action beyond those embedded within CFIUS to address concerns about an unfair acquisition of investment in the United States that is directed or facilitated by China in industries or technologies which are deemed important to the United States.”

The tariff plan has “gone through a very, very extensive interagency deliberative process,” the official added, and “the remedies were carefully weighed.”

“The end objective of this is to get China to modify its unfair trading practices, and it has been something that has been ongoing for quite some time. And to date, there’s been not-effective action that has persuaded China to effectively address these practices.”

China’s Commerce Ministry said today that the PRC “resolutely” opposes “this type of unilateral and protectionist action by the U.S.” and “will not sit idly by while legitimate rights and interests are hurt.”

“We must take all necessary measures to firmly defend our rights and interests,” the statement added.

Schumer said Trump is “doing the right thing when it comes to China” as “we have watched China rapaciously take advantage of America: of American jobs, of American workers, and of American intellectual property.”

“China’s ruthless in how they go after us. They do it quietly, they do it with a smile, and unfortunately, previous presidents, Democrat and Republican, just stood by, as China did what it did to us,” he said. “President Trump is exactly right, this afternoon, to propose a plan designed to punish China for its most flagrant trade abuses. I’ve called for such action for years and been disappointed by the inaction of both Presidents Bush and Obama. I’m very pleased that this administration is taking strong action to get a better deal on China.”

Schumer called America’s intellectual property the “family jewels,” and noted that “to achieve the kind of gains in advancements, in technologies, in biomedical science and in so many other things, [China has] to steal what we do.”

“Sometimes by buying our companies. Sometimes by cyber theft. Sometimes by these joint ventures and they tell American firms you can only come to China if you give away your intellectual property. So, China’s taking huge advantage of us,” he said. “…We’re letting them do it. The crown jewel of America, our free and open society that allows great thinkers to create great ideas and products. They steal it and we do nothing. It’s one of the things… that aggravates me more than most others. Finally, President Trump is doing something unlike his predecessors. So I commend him.”

As far as earlier tariffs on steel and aluminum, Schumer said he “supported the thrust, I supported the president’s instincts, but it wasn’t focused enough on China and hurt too many of our other allies like Canada where we have a trade surplus — the president, I hope, corrects his thinking on that.”

On China tariffs, the Democratic leader stressed that “Democrats, Republicans, Americans of every political ideology of every region in the country should support these actions.”