Buttigieg on Trump’s trade war: This is bigger than ‘who’s selling more dishwashers’

The U.S.-China trade war reached somewhat of a truce on Friday after President Trump announced that he had reached phase 1 of a trade deal with China. This came after the two countries have been involved in tit-for-tat tariffs over the last year and a half.

Yet, presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg sees the trade tensions as bigger than just tariffs.

“I actually think China presents more of a challenge than any of my fellow Democrats do,” Buttigieg said at The New Yorker Festival. “It’s because I look at what’s happening there and what I see is the use of technology for the perfection of dictatorship.

“But, that doesn’t mean that the president’s approach makes any sense,” he said. “Because it’s not a strategy. He’s just poking the guy to see what will happen. Moreover, he’s essentially reduced the U.S-China relationship to the question of who’s selling more dishwashers.”

Pete Buttigieg, South Bend Mayor and Democratic presidential hopeful, speaks at a campaign event in Dubuque, Iowa, U.S. September 23, 2019. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

Buttigieg is referring to the collateral damage of the trade war: the effects on American consumers. The tariff hike on goods from both countries meant higher prices on consumer items like washing machines, furniture, and dishwashers — goods that are largely imported from China.

By the end of 2019, the tariffs will have cost the average household $1,315 over a two-year period, according to a report from the National Foundation for American Policy. It is also projected that tariffs will cost American households more than $2,000 per year in 2020.

“While trade concerns are very important, I would actually link them to a bigger set of questions around strategy, around security, and around values, which brings us to Hong Kong,” Buttigieg said.

‘Embarrassing for the United States’

The Hong Kong protests, stemming from calls for democratic reforms in regards to its relationship with China, picked up steam in June 2019. Since then, demonstrations have occurred throughout the streets in the country, sparking international attention. The NBA even found themselves in the center of it after the Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of the Hong Kong protesters, leading Chinese companies to suspend licensing agreements with the NBA, putting the partnership between the organization and China at risk.

Anti-government demonstrators march in protest against the invocation of the emergency laws in Hong Kong, China, October 12, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Ammar Awad)

President Trump hasn’t said much on the issue. During trade talks with China’s Vice Premier Liu He on Friday, Trump remarked, “I think that’s going to take care of itself. I actually think this deal is a great deal for the people of Hong Kong to see what happened. I think this is a very positive thing for Hong Kong.”

Buttigieg doesn’t see it that way, however.

What’s happening in Hong Kong is people are speaking up for democracy and they haven’t heard a peep out of the White House supporting them, even offering the most tepid moral support for their quest for democracy. And that is embarrassing for the United States.

Adriana is an associate editor for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @adrianambells.

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