June 3, 2019 / 12:30 PM / a year ago

Pompeo says U.S. trying to level the playing field with China

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that the United States is seeking to “level the playing field” with China after decades of unfair trade practices, but his Dutch counterpart said tariffs would hurt international trade.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo looks on during a joint news conference in The Hague, Netherlands June 3, 2019. REUTERS/Piroschka Van De Wouw

Pompeo made the remarks after meeting Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok, with whom he also discussed security threats relating to new 5G telecommunications networks.

Pompeo defended U.S. President Donald Trump’s policy of imposing new trade tariffs on Chinese goods, saying: “We are simply trying to level this playing field and when we do so I am confident both nations will be successful.”

But Blok argued that tariffs would be damaging.

“In the end trade tariffs are bad for Americans and for Dutch workers and entrepreneurs who depend on trade for their livelihood. That is why, together with the EU, we strive to minimize tariffs,” he said after their meeting.

Speaking earlier on the sidelines of a U.S.-Dutch entrepreneurship conference in the Netherlands, Pompeo said Trump wanted to ensure that Chinese and U.S. companies were doing business on equal terms.

“We’re very concerned that Western companies, American companies and others that enter the Chinese markets aren’t treated the same way that Chinese companies are treated when they enter those Western markets,” Pompeo said.

“It’s not open trade when a company can come here and invest in the Netherlands and when a Netherlands company wants to invest in their country they’ve got to submit their information to the Chinese Communist Party.”

The United States, which has blacklisted Huawei, has discouraged its European allies from using the Chinese company’s technology, citing concerns about a “backdoor” that could enable spying by the Chinese state.

“We’ve been clear: Our ask is that our allies and our partners and our friends don’t do anything that would endanger our shared security interests or restrict our ability to share sensitive information,” Pompeo said.

Blok said that while the Dutch want to align policies with their allies, every country must make its own security decisions.

“A team of experts is looking into the safety considerations surrounding the 5G auction,” he said, adding that changes in the 5G auction process could be announced as soon as this summer.

Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Bart Meijer; Writing by Anthony Deutsch and Toby Sterling, Editing by Catherine Evans

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