United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer reassured worried farmers today that phase one of the U.S.-China trade deal is going ahead, with China having already committed to 50 out of 57 stipulations.
“Trust me that the trade deal is on, it’s the biggest trade deal,” Lighthizer told radio host Chip Flory on the syndicated radio program, AgriTalk. “It’s the biggest trade deal that anybody’s ever done. It’s completely on.”
The trade deal was cast into uncertainty Monday night, as White House director of trade and manufacturing policy, Peter Navarro, responded to a question from Fox News regarding the difficulties in negotiating the deal with the words, “It’s over.” Navarro subsequently said he was quoted out of context, and President Trump moved quickly to tweet a confirmation that a deal was still possible.
The China Trade Deal is fully intact. Hopefully they will continue to live up to the terms of the Agreement!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 23, 2020
Lighthizer also chose to play down Navarro’s comment, saying that he believed Navarro did not answer the question he was asked. “It was just a complete misunderstanding,” said Lighthizer. The deal is “full steam ahead.”
American Interests First
According to Lighthizer, while the American relationship with China is challenging, the United States will continue to do what is in its best interest, and that China represents a huge market for agricultural and other products—both now and in the future.
Lighthizer said that the United States had managed to open up considerable trade in beef, poultry, dairy, and soy beans. “In the three or four months this has been in effect, we have approved more than 2,000 new facilities with the Chinese,” he said, “and we’re up to 3,500 now. So it’s going to be a massive, massive impact on American farmers.”
Lighthizer said that the United States must navigate “a tricky relationship” with China. “It’s very complicated, it’s got a lot of sides to it, that are important, really to the future of America. And it’s my view and I think the President’s view that one of the most important things he’s doing in office is getting that relationship right.”
The trade representative said that the United States and China are the two biggest economies in the world, that China has 1.3 billion people and that it imports around $140 billion worth of agricultural products every year—or approximately as much as the U.S. exports to the entire world annually. The Chinese side had already followed through on 50 out of 57 commitments, he said.
The purchases were agreed on for the calendar year, he said, and while some commodities such as soy beans may be somewhat back-loaded, Lighthizer expects the Chinese side to meet their obligations within the calendar year.
“I know that every farmer in America cares about the overall relationship as much as they do the Ag relationship. So we have to get the balance right. We have to make sure that the country is safe and prosperous, and that our farmers are selling lots of products,” he said.