USTR Policy Cure-All, More Tariffs


DTN's Washington Insider

DTN/Progressive Farmer - 6/24/2020


Bloomberg is reporting this week that with COVID-19 cases spiking in nearly a dozen U.S. states, this may seem like a strange time to constrain America’s ability to obtain critical medical supplies and drugs. However, “new tariffs are exactly the strategy that America’s top trade official says is the best way to combat the coronavirus pandemic.”


The report cites Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. Trade Representative, who says he is a “firm believer that the things we need to fight the pandemic should be made in America,” The U.S. official was addressing members of the House Ways and Means Committee last week.


“I’m not in favor of reducing tariffs on the things we need. I would be far more in favor of increasing tariffs on the things we need.”


Lighthizer’s comments come at a pivotal moment in the health crisis as fresh outbreaks spark fears that a second wave may cross the globe and force governments into a dilemma where they must consider whether it is better to hoard critical medical supplies while redoubling their ability to produce them domestically, or help expand global access to medical goods so all nations can collectively fight the pandemic.


Bloomberg says Lighthizer is in the first camp while the European Union, Canada, Japan, Brazil and nearly a dozen others are in the second, “working to lower trade barriers that harm other nations’ ability to fight the virus.”


The emerging alliance, which calls itself the “Ottawa Group,” is discussing an EU-led initiative to eliminate tariffs on pharmaceuticals and medical supplies in order to “help ensure that the world is better prepared to deal with similar future crises."


The U.S. administration’s preference for protectionism remains clear, Bloomberg says.


In his testimony, Lighthizer flatly rejected the idea of joining the EU’s medical goods deal and blamed the World Trade Organization for hindering America's access to essential medicines,"casting specific ire on a 1994 agreement that eliminated tariffs on pharmaceutical goods.”


“Countries got together and said we will all agree to have zero tariffs on a certain list of pharmaceutical products and then we will just give that benefit to the rest of the world, which struck me as really, really crazy,” Lighthizer said.


Also, in yet another trade policy action, the administration says it is considering re-imposing tariffs on aluminum imports from Canada. Bloomberg says it expects an announcement by the end of the week.


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Trump threat to 'decouple' U.S. and China hits trade, investment reality


David Lawder, Reuters 

Jun 23, 2020


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Conflicting talk from Trump administration officials about “decoupling” the U.S. economy from China is running into a challenging reality: Chinese imports of U.S. goods are rising, investment by American companies into China continues, and markets are wary of separating the world’s biggest economies.


White House trade adviser Peter Navarro gave Asian markets a scare on Monday night by telling Fox News Channel that the U.S.-China trade deal was “over.” U.S. stock futures dropped, the dollar rose, and volatility indices climbed.


Navarro quickly backtracked on Monday night, saying he was referring to a lack of trust between the United States and China over the coronavirus outbreak. President Donald Trump also quickly tweeted that the deal was intact.


On Tuesday, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow praised Beijing, telling Fox Business Network “they’ve actually picked up their game” when it comes to the trade deal.


The damage-control efforts by the Trump administration come after Trump said last week that “a complete decoupling from China” was an option, overruling U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who had told lawmakers that decoupling was not realistic...