Trump ‘Not Interested’ in Reopening Trade Talks With China

May 12, 2020 Updated: May 12, 2020

WASHINGTON—President Trump said on May 11 that he opposes renegotiating the terms of the “phase one” China trade agreement signed in mid-January after Beijing reportedly asked to reopen trade talks to ease the terms.

During a press briefing at the White House, Trump ruled out the possibility of renegotiations with Beijing.

“I’m not interested. We signed the deal,” he said. “I had heard that, too—they’d like to reopen the trade talk to make it a better deal for them.

“Let’s see if they live up to the deal that they signed.”

A Chinese state-run newspaper, the Global Times, reported on May 11 that some Chinese government advisers were floating the idea of invalidating the pact and starting anew with Washington, according to Reuters.

Trump said: “China has been taking advantage of the United States for many, many years, for decades, because we had people at this position, right here where I’m standing, sitting right in that office, the Oval Office, that allowed that to happen.”

Tensions between the world’s two largest economies reescalated recently due to China’s mishandling of the COVID-19 outbreak and failure to fulfill its purchase targets in the trade agreement.

Last week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer held a conference call with China’s Vice Premier Liu He to discuss the progress on the implementation of the phase one pact.

After the call, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) stated, “Both sides agreed that good progress is being made on creating the governmental infrastructures necessary to make the agreement a success. They also agreed that in spite of the current global health emergency, both countries fully expect to meet their obligations under the agreement in a timely manner.”

The phase one agreement, which went into effect in mid-February, requires Beijing to import $200 billion worth of additional U.S. goods and services over the next two years.

The trade data for the first quarter shows that China is far behind the pace necessary to meet its purchase target. China, for example, has to import at least $80 billion in U.S. agricultural products over the next two years. In the first three months, China bought only $5.1 billion worth of farm products. To satisfy the deal, Beijing must accelerate its purchases sharply in the coming months, according to experts.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) called China’s progress “very disappointing.”

“In particular, China has sourced imports from other suppliers this year, and our market share for a number of products has declined from 2017 levels despite the phase one agreement,” a USDA spokesperson told The Epoch Times.

China granted tariff exemptions last September to U.S. farm products such as soybeans and pork, as well as petrochemical products.

On May 12, Beijing announced the second batch of tariff exemptions to 79 U.S. products, including “rare earth mineral ores, aircraft radar equipment, semiconductor parts, medical disinfectants, and a range of precious metals, chemical, and petrochemical products,” according to the South China Morning Post. The exemption, which begins next week, will be effective for one year.

The USTR in March also granted tariff exclusions on various health care products and equipment from China such as ventilators, oxygen masks, breathing masks, and nebulizers to help the COVID-19 relief efforts.

Trump repeatedly voiced disappointment over China’s purchases and threatened to “terminate” the deal if Beijing fails to follow through on its promises.

He said on May 6 that he would report “in about a week or two” on whether he’s happy with China’s progress.

The president’s tough stance on China has also become a central issue in his reelection campaign.

On May 12, a fundraising committee for Trump’s campaign sent an email to supporters asking donations to “break through the Fake News filter and expose Sleepy Joe for the LYING China-loving candidate that he is.”

“China is DREAMING that Joe gets elected in November—they LOVE ripping off America and he’d make it that much easier for them,” the email stated.

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