The Donald Trump White House on Friday announced that after 21 months of a United States trade war with China, a “phase one” deal had been reached between the two countries. But while the White House characterized the agreement as “amazing” and “historic,” according to a Washington Post report, top Democrats, as well as many China experts, took a dimmer view of the agreement as details were slowly released.
In fact, Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy took to his Twitter account to slam Trump’s deal as “a total capitulation” to the Chinese government, and “a disaster.” Murphy said that while the nearly two-year trade war cost U.S. workers 300,000 jobs, “China made exactly ZERO hard commitments to structural reform.”
Murphy also posted what he called “some back of the napkin math” regarding the details of the deal, on his Twitter account. According to Murphy’s calculations, though China agreed to up its U.S. agricultural purchases by $29 billion, tariffs on American farm goods cost U.S. farmers $11 billion. Trump then authorized $28 billion in taxpayer subsidies to the farmers hit hard by the trade war.
The cost of the trade war to U.S. agriculture was $39 billion, Murphy calculated, while the farm sector will now get back $29 billion.
“Nice work!” Murphy wrote, with evident sarcasm.
But Murphy was not alone in his criticism of the “Phase One” trade deal with China. Quoted in a separate Washington Post report on the deal, one expert on China’s economy said that the deal was “not even close to worth it.”
“If you turn this deal sideways, it’s almost invisible,” said Scott Kennedy, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The pledges to increase agricultural purchases by China as well as the country’s other “modest concessions” in the trade agreement “will hardly make up for the hit to various parts of the U.S. economy” that resulted from Trump’s trade war, according to Eswar Prasad of Cornell University, an economist who previously ran China operations at the International Monetary Fund.
In addition, U.S. farmers may not be able to produce enough products to meet the increased demand under the trade deal, according to the Post report.
The Post analysis also appeared to agree with Murphy that the deal did not require any substantial reforms to China’s economy, saying that Trump’s “goal of forcing China to overhaul its economic policies did not happen here.”
Whether China will follow through on its commitments under the new agreement at all was also the target of skepticism. Trump has fabricated details about the trade talks with China before. In August, when talks had stalled, Trump simply told the press that China had called and said that the talks would be reopened, even though no such calls ever took place.