File photo taken in November 2017 shows U.S. President Donald Trump (and Chinese President Xi Jinping attending a welcome ceremony in Beijing. 
Kyodo via AP Images

Trump touts ‘great’ Chinese trade deal that doesn’t actually exist

Updated

Over the weekend, Donald Trump spoke at the Voters Values Summit, one of the year’s major gatherings of the religious right movement, and the president was eager to tout parts of his record. “We do great things,” the Republican told the social conservative activists. “Look at what we did yesterday with China.”

The comments came about 24 hours after Trump told reporters, “So, we just made what, I guess, is one of the biggest deals that’s been made in a long time, with China.” The president went on to say, “[I]f you look at the deal, the deal is so incredible. The deal is a great deal.”

Part of the problem with the Republican’s boast is that the framework of the agreement may be “great,” but not for the United States. The Wall Street Journal published an interesting report the other day, noting that it was China that “emerged with wins” from the trade talks.

The other part of the problem, as the Associated Press reported, is that the trade deal Trump is so excited about doesn’t actually exist, at least not yet.

[N]egotiators reached their tentative agreement only in principle. No documents have been signed. A final deal could still fall through, though Trump told reporters Friday he didn’t think that would happen.

Many of the details remained to be worked out. Some of the thorniest issues – such as U.S. allegations that China forces foreign companies to hand over trade secrets – were dealt with only partially, or not at all, and will require further talks.

“The president is acting as if a lot of Chinese concessions have been nailed down, and they just haven’t,” said Derek Scissors, a China specialist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

A separate AP report added that despite Trump’s rhetoric, “closer inspection suggests there isn’t much substance” to the announced agreement. Scott Kennedy, who analyzes China’s economy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, added that Friday’s announcement was “a nothing-burger,” adding, “I call it the ‘Invisible Deal.’… The only thing that happened Friday was that the U.S. delayed the tariff increase.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin conceded yesterday that the deal needs “a lot of work,” and Beijing hasn’t even acknowledged the existence of an agreement.

Instead, as CNBC reported yesterday, China is looking for “another round of talks” before it agrees to move forward with the agreement Trump touted late last week – which further reinforces the fact that there is no deal in place.

If you believed the American president’s rhetoric on this, I have some bad news for you.