In his testimony to House Ways and Means Committee on China trade negotiation, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer laid down the principle that the US “can compete with anyone in the world”. But he emphasized “we must have rules, enforced rules”. And “market outcomes” rather than “state-capitalism” and “technology theft” determine winners. China’s unfair trade practices are “major threats to our economy”.

Lighthizer said there were “very intense, extremely serious, and very specific negotiation with China on crucial structural issues for several months” and “real progress” were made. US could “turn the corner” in the economic relationship with China “if” they can reach a satisfactory solution to the all-important outstanding issue of enforceability as well as some other concerns. But “much still needs to be done” before an agreement is reached, and “more importantly, after it is reached.”

He also emphasized that the administration is “pressing for significant structural changes” rather than “soybean solution”. The US is “very aware of ” the history with China and the “disappointments that have resulted from promises that were not kept” And, “the reality is this is a challenge that will go on for a long, long time.” He added that “if there is disagreement at my level, the U.S. would expect to act proportionately but unilaterally.”

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Meanwhile, as the agreements are settlements of China’s violations of Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. So they are executive actions that do not require Congress’ approval. China talks are more in common with a sanctions-monitoring regime than a traditional trade pact.

USTR’s opening statement here.

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