Democrat presidential candidate and self-styled “climate change” activist Tom Steyer’s proposal to end tariffs on Chinese goods produced with “the most filthy manufacturing processes imaginable” will help “global warming,” joked economist Alan Tonelson, founder of the economics and public policy website RealityChek.
Tonelson joined Tuesday’s edition of SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight with host Rebecca Mansour and special guest host John Binder to discuss ongoing trade negotiations between the U.S. and China, including the “Phase One” trade deal.
Steyer called for an end to the Trump administration’s implementation of tariffs on Chinese exports during Tuesday’s Democrat debate in Des Moines, Iowa. “Look, on the first day I would undo Mr. Trump’s tariffs,” he said, critiquing President Donald Trump’s trade policies as failing to “protect the climate.”
“I guess that [Tom Steyer’s] tariff decision on lifting all U.S. duties on Chinese products made with the most filthy manufacturing processes imaginable [is] going to help global warming,” quipped Tonelson. “Go figure that one out.”
Tonelson said, “[Existing U.S. tariffs target] the most important goods that we import from China, because they’re the high-value manufactured goods. They’re the products that have been benefiting from the combination of Chinese intellectual property theft, technology extortion, and illegal state subsidies.”
American maintained “tremendous leverage” over China in its Phase One trade deal, assessed Tonelson, according to publicly available information on the deal’s parameters.
Tonelson echoed Daily Beast columnist and Asia expert Gordon Chang’s concerns of the Phase One trade deal as possibly obstructing Trump’s broader goal of uncoupling the American and Chinese economies.
“Strategically, [Phase One] really makes no sense,” said Tonelson. “This is the time to keep kicking China while it’s down. The Chinese economy was growing at its slowest rate in decades. Its foreign trade balance has weakened tremendously. Its exports to the United States — by its own statistics, which … can be dodgy — fell by about 20 percent, last year. The Trump policy of being [of being tough] and creating tremendous pressure on China was working to decouple [the two economies].”
Tonelson added, “We were really making tremendous progress. … China, today, is much less important to the U.S. economy than the day [Donald Trump] was inaugurated. … Decoupling, making sure the U.S. economy has as little to do with China as is practically possible, has to be the overriding U.S. objective.”
Democrats simultaneously express concern for blue-collar workers will opposing the Trump administration’s use of tariffs to oppose Chinese mercantilism and industrial predation, noted Tonelson.
“[Democrats] are all smart enough to complain about Chinese trade predation, but almost all of them — even Warren and Sanders, from time to time, anyway — are quick to add that … ‘imposing tariffs on Chinese Products, that’s the worst possible response; that’s the last thing we want to do.’ Of course, they’re trying to have their cake and eat it, too.”
Tonelson continued, “A huge question surrounding the 2020 presidential campaign is whether Democratic blue-collar voters are going to buy [the Democrats’] policy mix any more than they did in 2016, and, of course, Trump won a lot of those voters [in 2016], and that’s largely why he’s in office.”
Sens. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) lack appeal to blue-collar Americans, estimated Tonelson.
“Blue-collar manufacturing workers — at least as I see it — don’t appear to make up a huge percentage of Sanders backers,” determined Tonselon. “I think it’s fair to say that more Sanders backers — sort of like Elizabeth Warren backers — they’re academics, they’re fairly well-to-do white people, they’re professionals, [and] they’re hipsters.”
Tonelson added, “In fact, for [Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren], opposing trade deals and caring about their blue collar Americans doesn’t float their boats. They’re not interested. Because [Barack Obama] loved off-shoring friendly trade deals, more and more Democrats decided they did, too.”
Trump’s trade policies will politically benefit him in “farm states” and “farm districts,” assessed Tonelson, “because American agriculture clearly took a hit from China’s retaliation for U.S. tariffs. … I think the extent of it has been exaggerated, but certainly farmers were grumbling.”
The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement is a boon for American farmers and food producers, added Tonelson, because America’s neighbors are “enormous markets for U.S. agricultural products.”
Breitbart News Tonight broadcasts live on SiriusXM Patriot channel 125 weeknights from 9:00 p.m. to midnight Eastern or 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Pacific.
Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter @rkraychik.