Excerpts: Remarks by President Trump at Signing of a Presidential Memorandum Targeting China’s Economic Aggression

March 22, 2018

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you everybody.  This has been long in the making.  You’ve heard many, many speeches by me and talks by me, and interviews where I talk about unfair trade practices.  We’ve lost, over a fairly short period of time, 60,000 factories in our country — closed, shuttered, gone.  Six million jobs, at least, gone.  And now they’re starting to come back.  You see what’s happening with Chrysler, with Foxconn, with so many other companies wanting to come back into the United States.

But we have one particular problem.  And I view them as a friend; I have tremendous respect for President Xi.  We have a great relationship.  They’re helping us a lot in North Korea.  And that’s China.

But we have a trade deficit, depending on the way you calculate, of $504 billion.  Now, some people would say it’s really $375 billion.  Many different ways of looking at it, but any way you look at it, it is the largest deficit of any country in the history of our world.  It’s out of control.

We have a tremendous intellectual property theft situation going on, which likewise is hundreds of billions of dollars.  And that’s on a yearly basis.  I’ve spoken to the President.  I’ve spoken to representatives of China.  We’ve been dealing with it very seriously.

As you know, we’re renegotiating NAFTA.  We’ll see how that turns out.  Many countries are calling to negotiate better trade deals because they don’t want to have to pay the steel and aluminum tariffs.  And we are negotiating with various countries — Mr. Lighthizer, Mr. Ross.

We are just starting a negotiation with the European Union because they’ve really shut out our country to a large extent.  They have barriers that — they can trade with us but we can’t trade with them.  They’re very strong barriers.  They have very high tariffs.  We don’t.  It’s just not fair.

NAFTA has been a very bad deal for the United States, but we’ll make it better or we’ll have to do something else.  The deal we have with South Korea is a very one-sided deal.  It’s a deal that has to be changed.

So we have a lot of things happening.  But in particular, with China, we’re going to be doing a Section 301 trade action.  It could be about $60 billion but that’s really just a fraction of what we’re talking about.

I’ve been speaking with the highest Chinese representatives, including the President, and I’ve asked them to reduce the trade deficit immediately by $100 billion.  It’s a lot.  So that would be anywhere from 25 percent, depending on the way you figure, to maybe something even more than that.  But we have to do that.

The word that I want to use is “reciprocal.”  When they charge 25 percent for a car to go in, and we charge 2 percent for their car to come into the United States, that’s not good.  That’s how China rebuilt itself.  The tremendous money that we’ve paid since the founding of the World Trade Organization — which has actually been a disaster for us.  It’s been very unfair to us.  The arbitrations are very unfair.  The judging has been very unfair.  And knowingly, we always have a minority and it’s not fair.

So we’re talking to World Trade, we’re talking to NAFTA, we’re talking to China, we’re talking to the European Union.  And I will say, every single one of them wants to negotiate.  And I believe that, in many cases — maybe all cases — we’ll end up negotiating a deal.

So we’ve spoken to China and we’re in the midst of a very large negotiation.  We’ll see where it takes us.  But in the meantime, we are sending a Section 301 action.  I’ll be signing it right here, right now.  I’d like to ask Bob Lighthizer to say a few words about the 301 and where we are in that negotiation.

And we’re doing things for this country that should have been done for many, many years.  We’ve had this abuse by many other countries and groups of countries that were put together in order to take advantage of the United States, and we don’t want that to happen.  We’re not going to let that happen.  It’s probably one of the reasons I was elected; maybe one of the main reasons.  But we’re not going to let that happen.

We have, right now, an $800 billion trade deficit with the world.  So think of that.  So let’s say we have 500 to 375, but let’s say we have 500 with China, but we have 800 total with the world.  That would mean that China is more than half.  So we’re going to get it taken care of.  And, frankly, it’s going to make us a much stronger, much richer nation.

The word is “reciprocal.”  That’s the word I want everyone to remember.  We want reciprocal — mirror.  Some people call it a mirror tariff or a mirror tax.  Just use the word reciprocal.  If they charge us, we charge them the same thing.  That’s the way it’s got to be.  That’s not the way it is.  For many, many years — for many decades, it has not been that way.

And I will say, the people we’re negotiating with — smilingly, they really agree with us.  I really believe they cannot believe they’ve gotten away with this for so long.

I’ll talk to Prime Minister Abe of Japan and others — great guy, friend of mine — and there will be a little smile on their face.  And the smile is, “I can’t believe we’ve been able to take advantage of the United States for so long.”  So those days are over.

Ambassador Lighthizer, thank you.

AMBASSADOR LIGHTHIZER:  Well, thank you very much, Mr. President.  First of all, for those of you who don’t know, Section 301 is a statute that gives substantial power, authority to the President to correct actions in certain circumstances where there’s unfair acts, policies, or practices by our trading partners.

In this case, the area is technology.  Technology is probably the most important part of our economy.  There’s 44 million people who work in high-tech knowledge areas.  No country has as much technology-intensive industry as the United States.  And technology is really the backbone of the future of the American economy.

Given these problems, the President asked USTR to conduct a study.  We conducted a thorough study.  We had hearings.  We reviewed tens of thousands of pages of documents.  We talked to many, many business people.  We had testimony, as I say.

And we concluded that, in fact, China does have a policy of forced technology transfer; of requiring licensing at less than economic value; of state capitalism, wherein they go in and buy technology in the United States in non-economic ways; and then, finally, of cyber theft.

The result of this has been that the President has analyzed it — we have a 200-page study which we will put out — and he has concluded that we should put in place tariffs on appropriate products — we can explain later how we concluded what products they are; that we would put investment restrictions on China with respect to high technology; and that we’ll file a WTO case.  Because one of the actions here does involve a WTO violation.

This is an extremely important action, very significant and very important for the future of the country, really, across industries.  And I would really like to thank you very much, Mr. President, for giving me the opportunity to work on it.

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