Pompeo predicts success in China trade talks
DARCY DOUGHERTY MAULSBY
DES MOINES – Quicken Loans’ TV commercials have “the translator” character to make the complex simple, but American politics has U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. His direct answers cut to the chase, especially when it comes to international trade and agriculture.
“No,” he responded when John Maxwell, an eastern Iowa dairy farmer, recently asked Pompeo whether he’d comment about a time frame for resolving the U.S.-China trade war.
This simple, direct reply triggered laugher from both Pompeo and the audience who gathered on March 4 at the World Food Prize building in Des Moines for a forum sponsored by the Iowa Farm Bureau.
Pompeo traveled to Iowa at the urging of former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, the U.S. ambassador to China. Pompeo assured farmers there’s been “real progress” in trade negotiations with China.
“I’m very hopeful we’ll be able to wrap up and get a truly successful outcome for the United States and for American ag,” he said.
Pompeo also followed up to Maxwell’s question.
“You remember I said I’d answer almost anything. I’m not trying to be short or not take your question seriously. I do. I am and the president is, too, enormously sympathetic to what you all are going through,” he said. “A free market makes life better in the long run”
Throughout his remarks, Pompeo sounded more like a businessman than a bureaucrat. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Pompeo ran two businesses in Kansas before his stint as a three-term U.S. congressman from Kansas. Pompeo later became director of the Central Intelligence Agency before serving as U.S. Secretary of State under President Donald Trump.
During his trip to Des Moines with Branstad, Pompeo described America’s ties to China as one of the most important relationships in the world.
“Terry Branstad has been an enormously powerful force for good in China,” he said.
He also contrasted China’s philosophy with the American way as he recapped his tour of Corteva Agriscience in Johnston on March 4.
“What an amazing company. Agriculture represents free enterprise, hard work and the opportunity for individuals to lead and take risks. Only a free market makes life better in the long run,” he said.
Over-burdensome regulation and high taxation must be avoided so businesses can grow, added Pompeo, who also spoke to FFA students during his trip to central Iowa.
“When the heavy hand of government gets involved, innovation grinds to a halt,” he said. “A light regulatory touch can make American agriculture the envy of the world.”
Taking China to task on theft
Contrast this with China, which has taken a much different approach to agriculture, business and trade.
“China steals sensitive technologies and has targeted intellectual property essential to farming,” said Pompeo, citing the 2013 case of a Chinese national who dug up seeds from an Iowa field and planned to send the seeds back to China. “We must give American businesses the chance to compete in China without losing the technology they’ve invested in so heavily.”
China’s theft and corruption hurts people, from Iowa farmers to the Chinese themselves.
“Counterfeit goods remain a persistent problem in China,” Pompeo said.
The answer isn’t more laws, however, especially when enforcement of laws is weak or non-existent.
“It doesn’t do any good to sign one more document or make one more agreement if the rules aren’t enforceable,” he said. “The good news? Help is on the way.”
The Trump administration is working to level the playing field to create more market access, he added.
“The art of diplomacy goes hand in hand with getting deals done. The goal of the U.S. State Department is to create opportunities for American businesses around the world,” he said.
Opening up markets is tough but achievable, said Pompeo, who added that it’s “enormous privilege” to serve in the Trump administration and try to deliver on the promises Trump made during the 2016 campaign. More difficult are the structural challenges involved in the process.
“We need more than promises,” he said. “We need a structure of good rules-based trade by which these agreements can be enforced.”
Making this a reality requires careful negotiations every step of the way.
“We’re trying to make sure we don’t fall down the same trap that American trade negotiators have done so many times,” Pompeo sad. “We’re deeply aware of these retaliatory trade tariff issues and we know how much they affect you.”
The Trump administration keeps these considerations top of mind throughout all the trade negotiations.
“We welcome China competing on a fair basis,” Pompeo said. “We also believe open markets beat centralized government every single time.”
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