President Donald Trump’s trade truce with China announced during the G-20 summit may ease skittish investors and lawmakers this week, but experts began to question its potency just hours after the president walked back into the White House.
The entente with Beijing, which Trump described as “one of the largest deals ever made,” capped a two-day meeting of the world’s largest economies in which the president sought to focus on trade even as his visit here was eclipsed by news at home.
“China will be opening up,” the president said after meeting for more than two hours with Chinese President Xi Jinping over grilled sirloin at a Buenos Aires hotel. “And China will be buying massive amounts of product from us.”
White House officials said the deal, outlined in a seven-paragraph statement late Saturday, will involve the U.S. holding off for 90 days on a round of steep tariffs that had been set for January. In exchange, China will purchase “a not yet agreed upon, but very substantial” amount of U.S. products to “reduce the trade imbalance” that has vexed Trump for decades.
“It remains to be seen what comes out of the 90-day negotiating window but it is unlikely that China will make dramatic changes to its policy,” said David Dollar, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “In the end, the administration will have to choose between incremental change and ramping up the trade war again.”
Still, the agreement marked the first break in the months-long trade dispute with China and was met with cautious relief by farm-state lawmakers and business groups wary of the tit-for-tat raising of barriers with the nation’s largest trading partner.
“The president’s goal to get China in a better and fairer place in trade is the right goal,” Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., told Fox News Sunday. “I would like to see China become the market that they should be for us.”
But critics, noting the lack of specificity about what China had actually committed to do, questioned what Trump had achieved after upping the ante for months with ever higher tariffs on Chinese exports. Trump said the proposed 25 percent tariffs on roughly $200 billion in Chinese products will be back in play if no deal is reached.