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Pompeo: U.S. taking "hard line" on trade, China, "foreign practices that harm America"

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Detroit Economic Club.
U.S. State Department
via Twitter
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Detroit Economic Club.

The United States is taking a “really hard line on foreign practices that harm America,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Detroit Economic Club today.

Pompeo’s talk centered on “economic diplomacy,” and often served as a defense of President Trump’s tough talk and actions on trade — such as slapping tariffs on products from Canada to China, and forcing renegotiations of bedrock trade agreements like NAFTA.

Pompeo said open markets and international engagement are vital to U.S. interests. But he also stressed the Trump administration is “working to maintain American sovereignty on the world economic scene,” and said re-working trade agreements, even with longtime allies, is vital to “level the playing field” in the global economy.

Pompeo took a particularlyhard line on China, saying U.S. tariffs and other measures are a necessary response to that country’s trade practices — and some foreign investments that Pompeo suggests are more about furthering China’s global power, and gaining political leverage over other countries.

“Chinese leaders over these last few weeks have been claiming openness and globalization. But it’s a joke,” Pompeo said. “I mean, let’s be clear. It’s the most predatory economic government that operates against the rest of the world today.”

Pompeo said China is the undisputed leader when it comes to forced technology transfer agreements, and intellectual property and “cyber-theft.”

“The theft of our stuff remains a central challenge for America,” Pompeo said. “China is the main perpetrator. It’s an unprecedented level of larceny.”

Pompeo says the U.S. also needs to “re-balance”when it comes to trade agreements with traditional allies in Europe and elsewhere. Regarding NAFTA, he was optimistic a new deal with emerge soon from ongoing negotiations, despite President Trump’s repeated threats to withdraw from the trade deal.

“I am confident that we will get deals,” Pompeo said. “Deals that will be good for Mexico, deals that will be good for Canada, and deals that will be wonderful for American workers.”

Pompeo also addressed North Korea, and the apparent promises President Trump extracted from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their Singapore summit last week.

Pompeo again sounded an optimistic note, but stressed there’s no binding deal yet. “There’s a great deal of work to do,” he said. “We still need to flesh out all the things that underlay the commitments that were made that day in Singapore.”

While some experts have questioned whether the points the two leaders announced amounted to a real agreement at all, Pompeo insisted that Kim “made fully clear his commitment to fully de-nuclearize his country.” He added that both Russia and China appear to be “fully onboard with our effort.”

Assuming the two countries can mutually work out the details, “We will have reduced a global threat that has bedeviled the United States and the world for decades,” Pompeo said.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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