Trump's concerns about China are 'legitimate,' says former Obama trade official

  • The White House's concerns about Chinese trade practices are legitimate, Michael Froman, former U.S. Trade Representative told CNBC at the China Development Forum.

President Donald Trump's White House has "legitimate" concerns underlying its controversial actions against China and the World Trade Organization, according to a former trade official.

In fact, Beijing's economic policies are undeniably a problem, according to Michael Froman, who served as U.S. Trade Representative during much of Barack Obama's second term in the White House.

"We can disagree with some of [Trump's] tactics, but the concerns he's raised abut China, and about the challenge that China's state capitalist system poses to the global trading system are legitimate and real," Froman told CNBC Saturday at the annual China Development Forum.

Many have concluded Washington's announcement of tariffs on up to $60 billion in Chinese imports is a political move aimed at shoring up Trump's voter base ahead of midterm elections. Yet while politics certainly influenced the tariffs, it's not necessarily the main factor, Froman said.

"The longstanding view that China has played by a different set of rules and has achieved remarkable results often at the expense of other countries" is the sentiment driving Trump, said Froman, who is currently a distinguished fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Regarding the WTO, the Trump administration has blocked the appointment of new judges at the organization, accusing it of bias against the U.S.

"Some of the issues they put on the table are legitimate," Froman stated. "What that says is, over the long run, we want a stronger dispute settlement process, one that's quicker, gets resolutions more expeditiously [and] has real teeth."