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China deal divides Florida trade voices in Congress

Vern Buchanan attended a signing ceremony as Rick Scott issued a skeptical statement.

President Donald Trump unveiled a trade deal with China this week that brings an end to two years of terse negotiations. But some of Florida’s top voices on trade remain split on the long-term wisdom of the deal.

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan joined colleagues at the White House Wednesday as Trump signed the agreement. The Sarasota Republican, who serves as the top Republican on the House Trade Subcommittee, called the agreement “another win for American consumers.”

But that assessment stood in contrast to a statement released by U.S. Sen. Rick Scott. Florida’s junior Senator praised White House efforts to reach a deal but suggested this agreement is ultimately folly.

“Communist China never lives up to its commitments and I don’t believe they will honor this deal,” Scott said in a statement. “Communist China is militarizing the South China Sea, breaking the agreement to give Hong Kong autonomy and freedom, and attacking religious freedom by detaining possibly more than one million Uyghurs in internment and re-education camps.”

Those thoughts in many ways mirror skepticism expressed by U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, the Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the Trade Subcommittee.

“Despite today’s elaborate ceremony, the jury is still out on how ‘historic’ this deal is,” Neal said Wednesday. “In calling it a ‘Phase One’ deal, the Administration admits that there are other important commitments they have not yet been able to secure, especially disciplines on China’s use of unfair subsidies.”

Buchanan instead characterized the deal as a boon for U.S. exports and protection of intellectual property, which for years has been massively pirated overseas. Tense trade negotiation tactics included the use of tariffs hated by free marketeers but which Buchanan believes brought China to the table.

“The U.S. economy is the strongest in decades and leveling the playing field with China will help keep it strong,” Buchanan said.

Scott, though, urged the administration to look at a bigger picture.

“Our relationship with China is about more than just trade,” he said.

“We have to talk about human rights and we have to talk about China’s growing influence around the world. The United States has been down this road before with Communist China. They never live up to their agreements, so why should we believe them now?”

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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