John Bolton: Huawei Arrest Highlights China Trade Practices The arrest and possible extradition of a Chinese business executive highlights trade practices that national security adviser Bolton says will be a major focus of U.S.-China trade talks.

John Bolton: U.S. Won't 'Turn A Blind Eye' To China's Trade Practices

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This was another roller coaster day on Wall Street fueled in part by trade tensions between the U.S. and China. The catalyst today - news that a high-ranking Chinese executive was arrested in Canada at the request of U.S. authorities. The arrest took place on Saturday just as President Trump was set to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The two leaders emerged from that meeting talking about a cease-fire in their trade war. But the business community seems to be nervous that the truce is not going to hold.

NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now. Hey, Scott.


CHANG: So tell us about this Chinese businesswoman who was arrested over the weekend in Canada.

HORSLEY: Her name is Meng Wanzhou. She's the chief financial officer of a big Chinese telecom company called Huawei. They're one of the biggest manufacturers in the world of smartphones and telecom networking equipment. Meng is facing possible extradition to the U.S., but we're not exactly sure why. The Justice Department isn't talking about it. Neither is the White House. But national security adviser John Bolton did speak to Morning Edition today. And he said Huawei's one of the Chinese companies the administration's been concerned about. They're suspected of stealing their competitors' technology. And that's at the heart of the U.S.-China trade dispute.

JOHN BOLTON: Whether you're a free trader or not, but maybe particularly if you're a free trader, you should not turn a blind eye when states as a matter of national policy are stealing intellectual property from their competitors.

HORSLEY: And you can hear more of that John Bolton interview on Morning Edition tomorrow. That's also when Ming is due to face a bond hearing in Vancouver.

CHANG: OK, so news of this arrest broke late Wednesday. And it seems to have rattled financial markets. Why?

HORSLEY: Yeah, at one point today the Dow was down more than 700 points. It largely recovered and ended the day off less than 80 points. But everybody's a little bit nervous, especially after that nearly 800-point drop we had on Tuesday.

CHANG: Yeah.

HORSLEY: Remember, Ailsa; we started out this week, everyone was kind of breathing a sigh of relief. President Trump had had this meeting with President Xi over the weekend. He announced he was going to hold off on boosting tariffs on Chinese imports from 10 to 25 percent while trying to hammer out a deal to protect American technology. As the week has worn on, though, that sigh of relief has given way to more anxiety that the trade truce isn't going to last. And the arrest of this high-ranking Chinese executive just adds to that.

CHANG: So what is President Trump saying about all this latest news?

HORSLEY: He has not said anything about Meng's arrest, but he did contribute to the stock selloff on Tuesday when he tweeted that he wanted to make a deal with Xi but that if they couldn't, tariffs would be going up. And he added for emphasis, quote, "I am a tariff man." That tweet echoed something Trump said last week shortly before his meeting with President Xi.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think we're very close to doing something with China, but I don't know that I want to do it because what we have right now is billions and billions of dollars coming into the United States in the form of tariffs or taxes.

HORSLEY: Now, he's right that billions of dollars are flowing into the U.S. Treasury, but it's mostly money that's already in the United States. It's coming from American businesses and consumers. That's who typically pays these tariffs. And we're starting to get some real data on just what that's costing, what the price tag of those tariffs is. There's an advocacy group called Tariffs Hurt the Heartland that's been crunching census data numbers. And we just got the data for October, which is the first month that the Chinese tariffs really took effect.

They found that the Chinese tariffs cost American consumers an extra $2.2 billion, making October the most heavily tariffed month in history. And here's the thing. It really hasn't depressed imports, but China's retaliatory tariffs have depressed U.S. exports to China. So right now it seems like the trade war's hurting the U.S. more than it's hurting China.

CHANG: All right, that's NPR's Scott Horsley. Thanks so much, Scott.

HORSLEY: You're welcome.

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