Schumer Floor Remarks On The Trump Administration’s Foreign Policy And Pursuing A Tough Course Of Action Against China On Trade

April 18, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer spoke on the Senate floor regarding the Trump administration’s foreign policy with respect to Russia and North Korea, labeling China a currency manipulator, and the need to pursue bipartisan legislation for the American worker and the middle class.  Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:

First, Mr. President,  I’d like to send my most heartfelt condolences to the Bush family, for the passing of the former first lady, Barbara Bush. Simply put, Mrs. Bush was the personification of grace and class as first lady and as a human being throughout her life. She will be missed by people on both sides of the aisle, and by all Americans.

Second, Mr. President, let me begin on the issue of our nation’s foreign policy. Over the weekend, the ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley went on national television to announce a new round of sanctions against Russia for enabling the brutal Assad regime to commit chemical weapons attacks against its own people.

Only twenty-four hours later, the White House reversed course and senior administration officials blamed Nikki Haley for being “confused.”

The word “confusion” may, in fact, define this administration’s foreign policy. Does anyone at the White House talk to each other? Is there a coordinated strategy? Or is our foreign policy completely subject to the president’s fleeting whims, changing as they do, day-to-day, moment-to-moment often guided by what some commentator says on television?

Unfortunately, that’s what it looks like from the outside. And it’s going to put America and our interests abroad in danger. Predictability, consistency in foreign policy are not boring; they’re a fundamental asset. It lets our allies know that we’ll support them, and our adversaries know they cannot get away with violating international norms.

The erratic nature of this administration’s foreign policy – exemplified by the abrupt reversal of Nikki Haley’s announcement – is something all Americans should be worried about.

All Americans should be concerned about President Trump’s disturbing decision to pull back from sanctioning Russia for its support of Assad and its enabling of his use of a chemical weapons in the wanton murder of his own people.

This extends a sad pattern of inconsistency towards Russia’s malign activities -- both here in America and across the globe -- when what is required of this administration is more aggressive, comprehensive and consistent policy actions that impose on Putin and his allies sufficient costs to change their behavior.

A second foreign policy issue, is the administration’s ongoing efforts to secure a diplomatic deal with North Korea.  We all want diplomacy to succeed with North Korea.

My primary concern with the president and his efforts with respect to North Korea relate to preparation and to discipline.  We are all aware that the president makes decisions about sensitive issues without seeking (or in spite of) expert advice.  Indeed, his decision to move forward with the North Korea summit was an example of this type of decision making.  But whether or not there is ever a time and place for this sort of decision making, it is unquestionably the wrong way to approach a tense summit between two nuclear-armed adversaries. 

We should all root for a diplomatic solution to the decades-long North Korean conflict because we know the costs of war on the Korean Peninsula would be catastrophic. That’s why the United States should pursue a diplomatic opening, including through direct diplomacy with Pyongyang.  But thus far we've not seen any indication that North Korea is willing to take concrete measures towards denuclearization.

Now, we've read this book before, and I am concerned that the administration, without a clear or coherent strategy, is buying a pile of magic beans, at the cost of our allies and partners and our own security. As Secretary Gates once said, "I’m tired of buying the same horse twice." There is a diplomatic pathway forward toward North Korea. It's just not clear that President Trump is on it....or would even know how to find it, or stay on it.

Now, on another matter, trade. The president and I don’t agree on a whole lot, but on the issue of China’s rapacious trading policies, we see eye-to-eye. Presidents from both parties, in my estimation, have failed to act strongly enough against the threat posed by China. President Trump, unlike both Presidents Bush and Obama, is finally doing something about it. I remain disappointed, however, that the president passed up the opportunity, once again, to label China a currency manipulator.

Nonetheless, yesterday, a really good thing happened: the FCC voted unanimously to advance a measure to limit the ability of Chinese telecom companies to sell in the United States – chiefly Huawei and ZTE, two major Chinese telecom companies. Huawei and ZTE are both state-backed companies. Their effort to enter the American market is a great example of how China attempts to steal our private data and intellectual property. The FCC has said that allowing these two companies into the US would pose a national security threat because it would give state-backed Chinese companies “Hidden backdoors to our networks” that would allow them “to inject viruses and other malware, steal Americans’ private data, spy on U.S. businesses, and more.” Those are the words of the FCC. The United States is a world leader in high-tech manufacturing and development, so naturally, China’s government is coming after that lucrative industry and continues to try to steal their way to a competitive advantage. Every one of our top industries that employ millions of Americans in good paying jobs, that make our economy the envy of the world are targeted by the Chinese, and this one is no different.

So I want to applaud the FCC’s decision and President Trump for pursuing a tough course of action against China and its rapacious trading policies. The president is exactly right about China: it seeks to take advantage of the United States in innumerable ways, by undercutting our products, stealing our intellectual property, and denying American companies market access. So I strongly encourage the FCC to finalize this measure and encourage President Trump to stick with his tougher posture towards China.

Finally, Mr. President, a note on the floor action this week. The Republicans are pushing, in succession, legislation that hurts labor rights and working people, consumers, the environment, and communities of color. President Trump, during his campaign, would often wonder aloud about what these folks had to lose by voting for him.

Now we know.

The Republican majority seems intent on putting forward heavily partisan bills that have no chance of passing or little practical impact but simply are designed to be divisive. That’s not going to get us anywhere. And it’s turning the Senate, which all of us want to be a deliberative, bipartisan body, into a bit of a farce this week. No debate, no amendments.

So, I’d suggest to my colleagues on the other side: let’s get back to pursuing bipartisan accomplishments that actually advance the interest of the American worker, the American consumer, and the middle class. After all, that’s what we were elected to do.