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Former Trump Campaign Adviser Stephen Moore On Trade And China


Today China's vice premier will be at the White House, likely meeting with President Trump. And the big question here is, will there be progress on ending a trade war between the world's two biggest economies? Trade talks have been going on ahead of a March 1 deadline. If there's no deal by then, U.S. tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods are set to rise from 10 percent to 25 percent. Stephen Moore is with us. He's an economist at the Heritage Foundation and has been an informal economic adviser to President Trump.

Welcome back.


GREENE: So how close have you been to these discussions?

MOORE: Well, I've been following them pretty closely, as everyone has. And I've been in touch with the people who are doing the negotiating for the Trump team. This has been a rather tedious process. It's gone on now for the last year and a half or so. Now we're - we've got D-Day coming up March 1, which is only a week away.

GREENE: It's getting close.

MOORE: (Laughter) And a - look. The latest signs are pretty positive. But, you know...

GREENE: What do you mean? What's positive?

MOORE: Well, Donald Trump tweeted out that he felt progress was in the right direction. That's a very important thing because, like, this comes down to two people, David. It comes down to Donald Trump. And it comes down to President Xi and China and Beijing, whether they want to get this deal done.

Look. I think the implications of not getting the deal done are disastrous for China. And they will hurt the United States as well. Trump will move forward with that 25 percent tariff threat if he feels that the negotiations haven't reached the point he wants.

But the latest indication is that Trump wants to get a deal done. We believe that Beijing wants to get it done. And if that happens, by the way, I think the implications for the economy of both countries will be very positive. You know, if it doesn't - if the deal doesn't get done, you know, I think it could have severe negative effects for both countries. So this is a really important moment (laughter), you know, we're arriving at.

GREENE: Well, can I ask you about the policy and the substance here? - because, I mean...

MOORE: Yeah.

GREENE: ...That - there have been key issues for the U.S., like allowing...

MOORE: Yeah.

GREENE: ...American products into Chinese markets on a level...

MOORE: Yeah.

GREENE: ...Playing field and respecting...


GREENE: ...Intellectual property rights...


GREENE: ...For American firms. I mean, have there been concessions from China here?

MOORE: Well, certainly on the issue of China buying more products. What's on the table right now is that China will buy about $30 billion a year more of our agricultural products - our soybeans, our wheat, our cotton. That's important for American farmers. It would reduce our trade, you know, imbalance with China, so that would be a positive thing. Trump also wants the Chinese to buy more of our manufactured goods - more of our petroleum products and so on. So that seems to be moving on a good course.

GREENE: But beyond buying more stuff, I mean, some of these really tough things, like China respecting intellectual property...


GREENE: I mean, are they sending signals that they would concede on that?

MOORE: Yes. But here's the problem, David. And I - this is where I've talked to the trade negotiators on our side. And they're saying, look. It's been like pulling wisdom teeth trying to get the Chinese to make real concessions. And here's the point that the Trump team has made, which is it's one thing for China to agree on paper to do something. It's quite another for them to actually do what they promised that they're going to do.

And so, you know, Trump has said many times it's almost like the old Reagan maxim when he was negotiating with the Soviets on, you know, arms issues. It's trust, but verify. And Trump is going to require that China not only make, you know, a deal but also that there are metrics that they have to meet. In other words, if they don't make those metrics, then he's going to use that club of the tariffs...

GREENE: So we might not know if this is a success. Even if they celebrate some sort of success, we might not know for some time.

MOORE: Yeah. This is just a deal to make a deal at this point (laughter).

GREENE: OK. Stephen Moore, an economist with the Heritage Foundation, informal adviser to President Trump, always appreciate having you on the program. Thanks.

MOORE: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.