In an interview last Thursday, Sen. Cory Gardner may have offered cautious support for President Trump’s approach to trade with China.
“China has got to live up to the bargains that it said it would,” Gardner said on KOA News Radio. “It’s got to start treating people fairly.”
In the interview — conducted by local talk show host Mandy Connell — Gardner said:
GARDNER: “Well, and the United States has to stand up to China! It has been too long where China has done bad things the United States has just said, ‘Gosh! I wish they didn’t do that!’ And so, you know, we’ve got to stand up to China. And that’s where this G20 summit probably has more pressure on it than a lot of these meetings have had in decades, because of this relationship. And it’s a pretty simple thing. We just expect people to treat us fairly, to treat us — you know, the old Golden Rule. You know, treat us like you want to be treated yourself. And so that’s what we need to do.”
Although Gardner said, “I don’t like tariffs,” because, “I think they’re a tax on the American people,” he pushed for a relationship with China “that puts American interests in the place that we know they should be.”
“They have treated us unfairly according to the rules of free trade engagement,” he said.
He also said the Chinese government of has “levied taxes and tariffs unfairly,” and forced “companies to enter into joint venture ownership programs with Chinese companies which results in the transfer of technologies and intellectual property.”
Gardner’s stance was far from an outright reversal of his earlier stated positions on the subject, but to some it sounds like he’s coming around to Trumpist approaches to trade and foreign relations.
Gardner’s office didn’t return a call seeking clarification of Gardner’s stance on the Trump
His comments on intellectual property – something even he characterized as mostly concerning industries broadly unsympathetic to the Trump Administration – were a big shift from the ones he used to critique Trump’s tariff approach last year.
“I think everyone in Congress agrees that opening up new markets is better for the United States,” he said to a CBS reporter last March in response to Trump’s criticism of the Reagan administration’s trade policy at a rally.
“We’re going to get this wrong if we start into a trade war that results in our allies penalizing us [or] increasing costs of consumer goods,” he said.
“I’m particularly concerned about the impact this could have on agriculture, because agriculture is really going to be on the frontlines of any kind of a trade retaliation that we see,” Gardner said.
In that interview, he characterized Colorado as, “a big ag state… where most of our top 10 exports are agriculture, so we have to get this right.”
Whether the Trump administration will be able to “get this right” remains to be seen. Many of his supporters regard recent developments on trade with Mexico and Canada as successful, but the ultimate outcome of the tariff war with China is still unclear.