President Donald Trump came into office promising to right the wrongs of the vast U.S. trade imbalance with the world’s great powers.
He pledged to get rid of NAFTA and replace it with an agreement that was mutually beneficial for us, the Canadians, and the Mexicans: He did. It’s now the USMCA.
The Trump administration has also reworked the United States–Korea Free Trade Agreement so that it, too, is more equitable for American workers.
Trump also promised to make better trade deals with European and Asian partners, and to a great extent, he has.
“We believe that trade must be fair and reciprocal. The United States will not be taken advantage of any longer,” the president has said in the past.
The greatest challenge, however, was China. The Communist regime, now managing the world’s second-biggest economy, has benefitted immensely from a one-sided arrangement that led to hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of trade imbalances for decades.
China has used that surplus to trick out its military, buy influence in regions where the U.S. has traditionally dominated, form alliances with our enemies, and steal our technology.
Trump started his effort by imposing a host of tariffs on China, which led to tit-for-tat retaliation, though Beijing’s tariffs were never as extensive as those Trump imposed.
It seemed to work. In December, the administration signed a “Phase One” deal with China that ended some tariffs, provided our companies with some renewed access to China’s market, and left the door open for “Phase Two.”
Then along came coronavirus and, more to the point, China’s culpability in both creating COVID-19 and allowing it to be spread around the world in secret rather than fess up early on and let the world help Beijing contain the spread.
Now, the president is about as inclined to do a new trade deal with China as he is to move to Bejing.
Trump said in the nearly 30-minute exclusive interview that because of the coronavirus pandemic, which originated in Wuhan, China, and spread around the world, he is not considering negotiating another deal with China at this time.
“We made a great deal, on the phase one deal,” Trump said. “The last thing I think about right now is phase two. It’s the last thing I’m thinking about right now, is a China phase two deal, after what they did to us on the China virus.”
Asked to provide more specifics on what else he intends to do to hold the Chinese government accountable for the virus and its spread, Trump was less specific.
“They should have stopped it, it being there,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. I can’t tell you yet, but we’ll see what happens. They certainly started it and they could have held it. Look, it didn’t get into China. But it went all over the world. They could have stopped it. They should have.”
Asked to talk about actions he’s taken specifically during his administration to combat Chinese influence as well as the lopsided trade arrangement, Trump mentioned a number of things, including benefits he was extending to American farmers.
“You take a look at on trade, you take a look at what we’ve done on trade deals and everything else. But you also look at what I’ve done to them on tariffs—massive tariffs. We’ve taken in literally hundreds of billions of dollars in tariffs,” he told Breitbart.
“It’s had an impact that’s positive. We’ve given $28 billion to our farmers because they were targeted by China. Nobody has ever done that before. That was one of the weak spots. China had told other administrations they were going to target the farmers. So the other administrations always caved,” the president continued.
“I said that’s okay, you target the farmers and I’ll target you. We charged them a tariff, a 25 percent tariff. We’ve taken in tens of billions of dollars. We actually gave $12 billion-plus $16 billion and then more this year to the farmers because that’s the amount of money that the farmers we’re targeted for,” Trump said.
“So the farmers—you ever notice you never hear anything bad from the farmers? It’s because they hit pay dirt because of me. Without me, they would be out of business right now. They hit pay dirt. We gave them $28 billion for targeted aid. You have to say thank you China, because China paid it—we didn’t pay it.”