Thomas J. Donohue Thomas J. Donohue
Advisor and Former Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


May 21, 2018


The trade relationship between the U.S. and China has been in the spotlight in recent weeks. The two countries have an enormous impact on each other’s economies, trading more than $700 billion worth of goods and services every year. Much of that trade benefits small and midsize businesses throughout the U.S.

Amid all the business our nations conduct, there are bound to be issues of contention and disagreement. This is especially true given the gap between America’s model of free enterprise and China’s model of state capitalism. Nonetheless, it’s important that we agree on a common set of rules for the global economy and international trade—and then live by them. These rules must ensure that both of our economies can compete on a level playing field.

Significant progress must come soon, and it must be visible. China needs to make faster and more serious progress on market reforms and in establishing a transparent, level playing field based on the rule of law. The U.S. has serious concerns regarding a range of Chinese government policies and practices, including restricting access to its market, conditional participation in the market on technology transfer, and other regulatory measures that seek to undermine the value of U.S.-held intellectual property.

By the same token, our government must recognize what the business community knows full well: that an escalating series of unilateral tariffs is counterproductive. We don’t think it makes sense to penalize our own workers, consumers, and companies in the name of saving them from unfair competition. The focus must be on opening markets, eliminating subsidies, and ending regulations that are increasingly designed to frustrate competition.

Mutually beneficial commercial deals can and must continue to be successfully negotiated, even as we confront challenges. Further, American leadership in international economic and security affairs requires us to address these issues with China, and China’s leaders will not shy away from offering their perspectives in return. As the two most powerful nations on earth, we have shared responsibilities to foster global peace, prosperity, and stability.

The commercial issues before us today are important, and we should take them seriously. But we can work through them—not all of them overnight, but certainly over time. Our goal must be to secure near-term progress on as many of the systemic issues as possible so that we can regain the positive momentum in U.S.-China economic relations. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is ready to help preserve and expand our fruitful commercial links in a system that is open, level, and fair.

About the authors

Thomas J. Donohue

Thomas J. Donohue

Thomas J. Donohue is advisor and former chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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