- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 15, 2019

U.S. and Chinese negotiators are staring at another round of thorny trade talks after toasting a “phase one” deal that scraps fresh tariffs and compels Beijing to buy more U.S. pork, soybeans and other farm products.

Capitol Hill hawks pooh-poohed Mr. Trump’s victory lap, saying he’ll have a hard time twisting Chinese arms after he canceled tariffs that would have hit nearly $160 billion in consumer goods over the weekend. They said he should have secured structural reforms from China, which massively subsidizes its industries and forces U.S. companies to transfer intellectual property.

Mr. Trump dismissed the naysayers, arguing that he secured tangible wins and left enough tariffs in place to keep China at the negotiating table. He wants to turn to the next phase of negotiations right away, instead of waiting to see if he wins reelection.

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China would like to see the tariffs off, and we’re OK with that,” Mr. Trump said. “But they’ll be used as a negotiating table for the phase two deal, which they would like to start immediately and that’s OK with me. We were going to wait till after the election, but they’d like to start them sooner than that.”

Despite ample criticism, Republicans from the heartland said the president deserves credit for demanding new agricultural purchases as part of the first-stage deal announced Friday. Mr. Trump said those purchases could reach $50 billion, though Beijing didn’t cite a number.

“This is a very large deal. The China deal covers tremendous manufacturing, farming, a lot of rules, regulations — a lot of things it covers,” Mr. Trump said at the White House. “And I say, affectionately, the farmers are going to have to go out and buy much larger tractors, because it means a lot of business, a tremendous amount of business.”

It took several weeks for Beijing and Washington to settle on the phase-one terms. Mr. Trump had announced the contours of the deal in the Oval Office in mid-October.

Because of the agreement, Mr. Trump said tariffs that would have hit nearly $160 billion in Chinese goods on Dec. 15 were no longer unnecessary. Existing tariffs on $250 billion in goods will remain, while levies on another $110 billion will be reduced from 15% to 7.5%.

Chinese officials characterized the deal as a phase-out of tariffs and said the text of the phase-one deal includes nine chapters on topics such as agriculture, intellectual property rights and financial services.

A senior administration official said U.S. negotiators secured real concessions. It got firm commitments on patents, pharmaceutical matters and the forced transfer of intellectual property, among other things.

“All of this is enforceable,” the official said.

While Mr. Trump and Beijing offered conflicting verbiage on farm purchases, senior administration officials said the deal calls for $40 billion to $50 billion per year.

The senior official said the actual text of the deal isn’t public because it is still going through the legal process.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said he expects U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He to conduct a signing ceremony in January.

Chinese officials held a news conference on the deal right as the House Judiciary Committee voted Friday to forward articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump to the full chamber.

The president says he did nothing wrong in his policy vis-a-vis Ukraine, which prompted the impeachment inquiry, and that he’s making the nation stronger through trade deals with North American partners and China.

Some leading Democrats are skeptical about what the administration achieved with the phase one deal, saying tariffs are supposed to be his main form of leverage.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said he thinks Mr. Trump got played by a Chinese government that promises big things and then walks them back.

“There are huge structural inequities, structural and unfair imbalances, with China’s trade relationships with the U.S.,” the New York Democrat said. “At first, President Trump seemed like the only president who would dare tackle this challenge. But now, according to reports, he has sold out for a temporary and unreliable promise from China to purchase some soybeans. We’ve heard this song and dance from China before.”

Mr. Trump said Mr. Schumer should be more appreciative because he “did nothing” during the previous administration “as China ripped off the United States.”

“Now, without even seeing it, he snipes at our GREAT new deal with China,” the president tweeted Saturday.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said Mr. Trump should be applauded for giving farmers a lift.

“President Trump should be commended for working toward a strong, enforceable trade deal that will require China to abide by international trade norms and the rule of law,” the Iowa Republican said. “Iowa, in particular, will benefit from China’s purchasing of agricultural products, especially hog, corn and soybean farmers. But China must know that this gesture of goodwill does not mean the United States will accept anything less than a full and enforceable trade deal.”

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