The spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), from China’s Wuhan to throughout the globe, has raised questions about the United States and its reliance upon China for manufacturing goods, some of which are vital to the national security of the United States.
During a one-on-one interview with Breitbart News, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate seat he held for two decades before serving as attorney general, elaborated on the threat of China, and credited President Donald Trump for taking measures necessary to try to minimize the danger.
He deemed the Asian superpower to be ruthless and an entity that does not play by the rules with an objective of global domination.
“This is a critical matter for America to understand. China is a ruthless competitor, and they seek to dominate the world, economically and otherwise. I believed that when I became attorney general. But after reviewing the situation, I became even more concerned. As attorney general, I created the China initiative to investigate the criminal activities of China. In the last four years of the Obama administration, there were no prosecutions involving China. There have been 50 since President Trump took office.”
“There’s no doubt about it — China is a major threat,” Sessions added. “They do not play by the rules. And if you do not stop them, they will continue to not play by the rules.”
Sessions, who faces a contentious Republican primary on Tuesday against Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) and former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, reflected on his conversations with then-candidate Trump, noting that when Trump took power, he was not reluctant to use tariffs to force China to the bargaining table.
“He and I talked about it on the airplane in various private conversations,” Sessions said. “What I believe that fully understand is if we stand firm, China needs us far more than we need them. They have this huge $400 billion-plus trade surplus with us. If they could not sell into our market, their economy would go into a major recession almost immediately, whereas we can buy products made in the United States, made in Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Philippines. It might cost a few cents more. They’re far more friendly to us and don’t cheat at the level China does. President Trump is the first president willing to play that card and actually impose tariffs on China of substantial amounts to bring them to the table, and that’s why they’ve come to the table for the first round of agreements.”
The Alabama Republican rejected traditional orthodoxy on the use of tariffs being taboo. He accused his opponent Tuberville and others in Washington of opposing tariffs and not fully grasping actions taken by the Trump administration to protect U.S. interests that may not adhere to the “theory of free trade.”
“A lot of Republicans don’t get it,” he said. “They’re religiously opposed to tariffs. They think that it is OK to cheat us as long as the product is cheaper. My opponent Tommy Tuberville opposes tariffs. He is a 100% free trader. He says he doesn’t agree with the president’s position with regard to China. There are others in Washington just like that. This is not President Trump’s philosophy. His philosophy is a good president owes his allegiance to the people of the United States — to negotiate agreements that protect their interests and not some theory of free trade.”
“Many of them don’t realize they’re operating on some theory, where in reality China is taking advantage of them to the detriment of working people,” Sessions added. “Now the Wall Street crowd — they’ll just move their money to the emerging markets. They’ll invest in Chinese companies, in Vietnamese companies. They don’t care where it is made, as long as they make their profit. An American president and a political leader have to ask what am I doing to ensure a factory with hundreds of American workers are not being treated unfairly and has to stop.”
Sessions also spoke out against Chinese technology company Huawei’s efforts to dominated 5G wireless technology, noting the technology could offer a hostile China to spy on the United States in addition to putting other companies at a disadvantage.
“It is unthinkable that this country would allow that this would allow a Chinese government company to supply our computer systems in America,” he said.
Lawmakers have publicly acknowledged the coronavirus outbreak will disrupt the availability of prescription drugs in the United States, given many of the ingredients are manufactured in China. According to Sessions, this is not to be taken lightly, and measures should be put in place, even if they contradict the theory of free trade.
“It is also unthinkable that maybe for a penny or two per pill more, we would let China dominate production of prescription drugs, or even dominate key ingredients in these medicines. Sometimes they make the underlying ingredient, and they ship it in bulk and make the pills in the United States. But you’re still dependent on the supply chain.”
Sessions argued for measures to be taken in some circumstances to protect U.S. interests.
“I’ve always been a strong free-market person,” he said. “I’ve never felt that we should not trade with other nations. But yes — you simply have to live in reality, not theory. And the theory is anything that is a few cents cheaper, you should buy the cheaper product, wherever it is made. We don’t often understand they are subsidized by foreign governments. They also pay slave wages in those foreign countries.”
“I think a nation just simply has to say, ‘You don’t make our missiles. You don’t make our satellites. You don’t make our internet systems. You don’t make our medicines.’ We can make all of those here, and it won’t cost much more money if it costs any,” he continued. “Sometimes, it might be less. China is strategically targeting industries in the United States that not only create jobs in China and lay off workers in the United States — it also provides them leverage in strategic power over the United States.”
The former U.S. Senator-turned-U.S. Senate hopeful praised Trump’s decision to appoint Vice President Mike Pence to spearhead efforts against the coronavirus outbreak, saying Pence’s presence signifies an “all-of-government response.”
“I really do think the President is correct to choose the Vice President to head this up,” he added. “First, it sends a signal to every agency in the department that this is a top priority for America. Second, as an extension of the president, he can create cooperation and coordination between so many of these agencies that have to be involved in this — everything from the State Department, the Center for Disease Control, Health and Human Services, Department of Justice. Agency after agency is involved, and when the Vice President is chosen to lead it, it becomes an all-of-government [response].”
“You want an all-of-government response and not a bunch of individual agencies and bureaucracies acting on their own,” he added.
Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor