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Donald Trump

Trump nominates China critic as deputy US trade envoy

Dennis Shea has spoken out against state-owned firms entering the American market, with one mainland analysts warning “he’s not the kind of person who will be friendly” to Beijing

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 July, 2017, 10:47am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 July, 2017, 11:33pm

US President Donald Trump has nominated Dennis Shea, vice-chairman of a congressional commission that has been highly critical of China, as deputy US Trade Representative, the White House said on Tuesday.

The move adds another China trade hawk to Trump’s trade policy team, joining US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro, the White House director of trade and industrial policy.

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The nomination, possibly made due to pressure from Republican establishment, means more restrictions on Chinese exports or investments may be on the way, according to observers.

Shea is vice-chairman of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which is charged with annually assessing the security, economic and trade relationship between the two countries, including China’s compliance with its commitments to the World Trade Organisation.

The panel recommended in November that US lawmakers take action to ban China’s state-owned firms from acquiring US companies, arguing that Beijing uses state back firms to advance its national security objectives.

It said lawmakers should strengthen the role of the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States, an interagency government panel that conducts national security reviews of acquisitions by foreign firms.

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The United States has seen a growing wave of Chinese acquisitions in recent years, especially in the technology sector.

“Chinese state-owned enterprises are arms of the Chinese state,” Shea told a news conference at the time the recommendation was released. “We don’t want the US government purchasing companies in the United States, why would we want the Chinese Communist government purchasing companies in the United States?”

Huang Jing, an expert on Sino-US relations at the National University of Singapore, said the nomination of Shea, who has a long career in government, was most likely the result of a compromise between Trump and the political establishment. “This is not good news for China,” Huang said. “Based on what he has done, Shea is not the kind of person who will be friendly to China.”

Huang said it was “dangerous” for Beijing to expect beneficial deals solely on the basis of a personal relationship with Trump, as he had little sway over domestic US politics. “Whatever Trump reaches with China, the establishment will push back,” he said. “It has already begun to correct Donald Trump’s so-called soft and nice approach to China.”

Shea has served a decade on the commission and has been its chairman or vice-chairman each year since 2012.

A Harvard-trained lawyer, Shea has worked in and around government for much of the past 30 years, including as senior adviser to former Republican Senators Bob Dole and Elizabeth Dole and as assistant secretary for policy development and research at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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He also has worked as a lobbyist, forming his own firm, Shea Public Strategies, in 2010.

The nomination, which has been submitted to the US Senate for approval, comes about five weeks before the Trump administration is planning to start the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.

Additional reporting by Viola Zhou