The election of Donald Trump to the presidency has already had a major impact on United States trade policy, as President Obama announced over the weekend that the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal — which was slated to be his signature second-term accomplishment — is all but dead, politically.
President-elect Trump made criticism of trade deals a central plank of his campaign, and he repeatedly singled out the nations of China and Mexico as unfair trade partners while on the trail. In a controversial interview with the New York Times editorial board, Trump suggested that he would impose high tariffs on China, throwing out a rate of 45 percent as a hypothetical starting point for negotiations on a new trade deal. Many news media outlets reporting on the interview claimed that Trump supported a firm 45 percent tariff on Chinese goods, a claim that Trump immediately denied on the campaign trail.
The Chinese government has not waited for Trump's inauguration to begin its public relations battle with the incoming Trump administration. According to CNBC, a Chinese state-run newspaper has published threats of retaliation if a Trump administration attempts to impose any punitive measures such as tariffs:
A batch of Boeing orders will be replaced by Airbus. U.S. auto and iPhone sales in China will suffer a setback, and U.S. soybean and maize imports will be halted. China can also limit the number of Chinese students studying in the U.S.
Boeing's corporate headquarters are in Chicago, Illinois, and they employ thousands of Americans at manufacturing and service facilities across the United States. Airbus is headquartered in France and has manufacturing facilities in France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom. China is a major importer of food products from the United States; however, in recent years, China has gained ground as an exporter of certain food products as well.
U.S. trade policy with respect to China has been a contentious political issue for decades, since the Chinese were granted "most favored nation" status in 1979. China's record on human rights abuses have made this status a contentious one politically, especially since the Chinese crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989 angered the American public. The American business community has successfully lobbied the United States government to keep trade negotiations with China separate from human rights negotiations, because China is a major importer of U.S. goods. Former President Bill Clinton acceded to these lobbying efforts when he reversed a campaign pledge in 1994 and again granted China most favored nation status. The term "most favored nation" status was revised to "permanent normal trade relations" in 1998, and this status was granted to China in 2001.
In recent years, the focus of controversy regarding United States trade with China has moved from China's alleged human rights abuses to China's alleged unfair trade practices, including currency manipulation and flaunting of international intellectual property law. Trump made these practices a central focus of his campaign, leading to speculation that he might start a trade war with China after his inauguration.