By Tim Leeds 

Trump signs trade agreement with China after 18-month trade war

Some skeptical of the deal


January 16, 2020

After an 18-month trade war and escalating tariffs, President Donald Trump Wednesday signed a trade agreement with China, the first phase of agreements he said will reform China’s policy and benefit U.S. trade.

“From day one, my administration has fought tirelessly to achieve a level playing field for the American worker,” Trump is quoted in a release from the White House.

But some are skeptical of the deal, with some economists saying it leaves in place tariffs, doesn’t address many issues and lacks export diversification.

The deal includes China promising to buy $40 billion to $50 billion in U.S. agricultural products each of the next two years, after which the agreement expires.

The members of Montana’s congressional delegation were split in their praise.

“Today’s phase one agreement with China is a welcome first step, but we shouldn’t pat ourselves on the back when we have a lot more work to do to end this self-inflicted trade war,” Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said in a statement released Wednesday. “Montana producers are hurting, and I’m going to keep fighting to make sure today’s deal is enforceable and that China delivers on what they promised, because family farms and Main Street businesses are on the line.”

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., attended the signing with Republican Cascade County Commissioner Joe Briggs.

“I’ll tell you what, it means billions of dollars for our ag industry which is a big deal for Montanans, so big shout out to President Trump and his team here,” Daines said in a press release issued Wednesday.

“I sure appreciate the opportunity to be here Steve and spend some time with you this morning,” Briggs said in the release. “It’s incredible to have been at a ceremony like this. This is such an historic trade agreement. It has far reaching ramifications economically, militarily and overall for the security of the world.”

Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., also praised the agreement.

“Today’s breakthrough agreement between the U.S. and China is a win for Montana agriculture, manufacturing and businesses,” he said in a statement released Wednesday. “It dramatically expands American ag exports to China, levels the playing field by ending China’s unfair trade practices, and keeps China accountable to hold up their end of the deal.

“The agreement with China builds upon the growing success of the trade deals President Trump has negotiated with Japan, Brazil, Mexico and Canada, our top trading partner,” Gianforte added in the statement. “President Trump deserves a lot of credit for delivering trade agreements that work for America and Montana.”

But the progressive independent nonpartisan policy institute Center for American Progress said in a statement Wednesday the agreement is “riddled with loopholes” and “designed to deliver for Wall Street and big companies while doing nothing for working families.”

“Today, President Trump signed a weak deal with China that makes clear that his administration’s failed trade strategy has been all pain and no gain,” Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the center said in the statement. “President Trump rightly identified U.S.-China trade as seriously out of whack, harming U.S. workers, businesses and national competitiveness. Yet, the president’s weak deal aims to partially reverse some of the self-imposed damage from the Trump tariffs without actually addressing any of our real trade problems with China. The cost of these problems will continue to be borne by American consumers, workers and farmers.”

Montana Farmers Union President Walter Schweitzer gave the deal reserved praise, saying it’s a step in the right direction that could help struggling American farmers and ranchers.

“We are hopeful the first phase of the trade deal is going to make an impact,” Schweitzer said in a release issued Wednesday. ”Agriculture is in a real crisis. We have lost markets that may never be recovered.”

“… The success of the ‘Phase One’ deal relies heavily on whether China follows through on their promises and if the administration properly enforces the deal,” Schweitzer added. “Time will tell. At this point we are optimistic, but must face reality that it will take years before American farmers and ranchers get their markets back.”


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