President Trump may be cheering “an incredible deal” with China that will at least put on hold some of the contention between the two countries, but there are signs that it’s too soon to celebrate.
Reuters noted that the higher-ups in Chinese government are remaining mum on the talks between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G-20 summit in Argentina this past weekend.
The country’s foreign ministry keeps referring questions on details of the discussion to the commerce ministry — and that agency isn’t talking, although it will hold a weekly news briefing on Thursday.
A Chinese official told Reuters that the government was waiting on its leaders to return before speaking. Xi and other senior officials are set to get back to China on Thursday after visiting Portugal.
The U.S. and China agreed to hit pause on their trade war for 90 days, the White House reported. Trump said he will hold off on his plan to raise all of the previously implemented tariffs to 25 percent on Jan. 1. He also will not impose duties on the remaining Chinese imports.
The White House has said China has agreed to buy a number of products from the United States in the sectors of farm, energy, and industrial, among others, but the Trump administration hasn’t laid out specifics. American soybean farmers have been hit particularly hard in the tariff wars after China stop buying their yield.
Trump said in a tweet that farmers would be “a very BIG and FAST beneficiary” of the China deal.
“They intend to start purchasing agricultural product immediately,” Trump wrote. “We make the finest and cleanest product in the World, and that is what China wants.”
China will also cut tariffs on imported American vehicles, Trump said. The current import rate is an astronomical 40 percent and it’s unclear what the new level would be.
China, meanwhile, hasn’t spoken publicly on any of this.
Fang Kechen, a Chinese media researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, told Reuters that “the Chinese government doesn’t want its people to consider the agreement as a failure for China.”
Trump created a new moniker for himself on Tuesday, declaring himself the “Tariff Man,” as a thinly-veiled threat to China if it backs out of the tentative agreements that were apparently made in Buenos Aires.
“President Xi and I want this deal to happen, and it probably will. But if not remember, I am a Tariff Man,” Trump tweeted.
“When people or countries come in to raid the great wealth of our Nation, I want them to pay for the privilege of doing so,” he continued. “It will always be the best way to max out our economic power. We are right now taking in $billions in Tariffs. MAKE AMERICA RICH AGAIN.”
But as Tariff Man crows, American businesses left and right are reporting lost profits and job cuts in the wake of the economic fallout from the trade wars started by the tariffs.
General Motors recently announced plans to close plants and slash employment by 14,000. It had previously lowered its projected profits for 2018 in part due to higher costs for steel and aluminum resulting from Trump’s tariffs.
The president criticized GM CEO Mary Barra, saying “I spoke with her when I heard they were closing [a plant in Ohio], and I said, you know, this country has done a lot for General Motors.”
The New York Times noted that another hazy sign for a deal with China is the choice of U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer to lead the talks. Lighthizer has advised Trump to use hard-line tactics such as the tariffs to press China for a change in its trade tactics.
The outlet pointed out that deep divisions remain about how China treats American companies, including its lack of respect for intellectual property.
Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, who prefers a lighter touch with China, had previously been the point man for negotiations but failed to close a satisfactory deal.
“The greatest amount of expertise in the administration, on trade and China, is held by Bob Lighthizer,” Michael Pillsbury, a China scholar at the Hudson Institute who has been advising the Trump administration, told the Times. “The Chinese are wary because they know he’s the real deal.”
The talk of a truce helped the stock market regain some recently lost ground early this week, but financial analysts are still wary. Citigroup wrote in a note to clients that the road for the trade deal between the two nations is “not one without potential pitfalls, and that such a ‘truce’ may well prove to be temporary, particularly when considering how the U.S. will try to enforce the implementation of such a deal.”
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