Suzanne P. Clark, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, addressed attendees of the China Business Conference with thoughts on how the current administration can proceed in the future, both with China directly and with other countries.
In her address, Clark explains how leadership and action can help the U.S. mitigate security risks while maintaining strong global trade agreements.
China’s Pursuit of ‘Absolute Security’ Poses Security Risks to Other Countries
The “increasingly concerning actions” taken by Chinese authorities have been in pursuit of the country’s goal of “absolute security,” said Clark. This, in turn, makes the rest of the world less secure.
“[China’s] vision of comprehensive or absolute security has never been more clear, and we're watching China employ policy tools and practices like military-civil fusion, economic coercion, and extreme forms of digital protectionism,” she noted. “It is the stated goal of the Chinese government to make the world more reliant on China, and yet … its move away from openness and fair treatment for foreign investors has often undermined its goals of becoming a more innovative and competitive economy.”
In the wake of these policies and practices, the U.S. must consider economic action to protect its own national security, said Clark.
“The U.S. Chamber does support targeted and responsible steps to restrict Chinese access to sensitive technologies that could be used to undermine our national security, including export controls, technology restrictions, and scrutiny of outbound investment,” she added.
Business Leaders Should Seek Opportunities for Productive Economic Engagement With China
Clark encouraged the U.S. business community to pursue economic opportunities that allow us to engage with China in ways that still protect our national interests.
“There is still a vast area of commercial opportunity where we can and should engage productively,” she said. “Transactions that don't pose a threat to national security [can] strengthen the U.S. economy, create opportunities for U.S. small businesses, and improve the standard of living for millions of Americans.”
“If we treat every economic interaction as a risk, we will lose focus on those that really truly pose a threat,” Clark added.
Addressing the Challenges in the U.S.-China Relationship Requires Stronger Global Engagement
Ensuring secure and productive global trade relations requires a “multifaceted and coordinated approach from the U.S. government,” said Clark. However, she acknowledged the “widening differences” between the U.S. and Chinese systems and said it will take time and effort to bridge those differences.
In the meantime, Clark encouraged the U.S. to engage with other countries to address the challenges in its relationship with China.
“To achieve real, secure supply chain alternatives to China, we need meaningful trade arrangements with other countries [and] other markets,” she explained. “Some of those trade agreements … are in place, but they've got to be strengthened if we're going to leverage their potential.”
“This Administration's reluctance to pursue new trade agreements means we are losing key footholds in Asia and in Africa, while China and other global partners move forward without us,” Clark continued. “We will continue to press this Administration to get bolder on trade [and] to cooperate with global partners who share our values.”