Wilbur Ross: U.S. Seeks Right to Unilaterally ‘Punish’ China

The Associated Press
AP Photo/Andy Wong

The United States government wants China to agree that the U.S. can unilaterally punish the Asian nation for violations of trade commitments, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Friday.

Ross said that enforcement mechanism for the agreements now being negotiated between the U.S and China would include regular meetings between officials to monitor compliance as well as the ability of the U.S. to impose penalties for violations.

“We need the ability to take unilateral action that punishes them, whether it is tariffs or quotas,” Ross said.

This is the first time a U.S. official has described the enforcement mechanism trade negotiators have been crafting behind closed doors.  Top White House and Trump administration officials have repeatedly said that a strong enforcement mechanism would have to be included in any trade agreement between the U.S. and China. And this week U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer hinted the U.S. was seeking a right to take unilateral action but did not say it would be part of the agreement with China.

A unilateral enforcement mechanism would be a departure from past practices, where the U.S. agreed to submit its complaints to international panels for adjudication. Those have been criticized as ineffective by Trump administration officials, including Secretary Ross and Ambassador Lighthizer.

“We have to have an automatic ability to do something about it,” Ross said, speaking of China “cheating” on trade rules. “You’d be amazed at how having a unilateral ability to mete out punishment modifies behavior.”

Ross was speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC.

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