SEOUL – Just hours after wrapping up a largely cordial visit to China on Friday, President Trump used a speech at a regional economic summit in Vietnam to assail Chinese trade practices:
“But while we lowered market barriers, other countries didn’t open their markets to us.”
“We are not going to let the United States be taken advantage of anymore.”
Trump didn’t single out China by name, but his words were clearly aimed at Beijing, which continues to maintain steep barriers against inroads by foreign companies.
And Trump didn’t stop there:
“We will not remain silent as American companies are targeted by state-affiliated actors for economic gain, whether through cyberattacks, corporate espionage or other anti-competitive practices.”
Earlier this year Trump directed his trade representative investigate Chinese theft of American intellectual property, while Congress continues to probe Chinese investments in sensitive sectors of the US economy.
You’d never guess that by listening to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s own remarks at the same summit:
“This is a new journey toward greater integration with the world and an open economy of higher standards.”
Experts say China’s economy isn’t as open as Xi suggests. Yet compared Trump’s more protectionist trade policy, Xi sees a strategic opening.
Rolf Langhammer researchers global trade at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy:
“What President Xi wants to do is, of course – he feels the vacuum which has been opened by President Trump, that he is the new leader in the world economy.”
To his credit, Trump did pledge to overhaul America’s overseas investment strategy and try to counter Chinese investment in infrastructure across the developing world. But Langhammer says Trump is late to the party:
“China is far ahead with respect to projects and money in infrastructure planning.”