US-China Trade Deal Brings Mixed Reaction

The new U.S.-China trade deal, which includes 10 initial agreements on agricultural trade, financial services, investment and energy, is drawing mixed reviews.

The agreement is being panned by some as a poor deal for the United States that does not address fundamental issues concerning the Chinese market. But others say the agreement represents incremental progress.

Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, argued the deal has failed to address issues facing advanced industries that are critical to the U.S. economic future.


In a statement, he said the plan, which opens up Chinese markets for mostly commodity-based and finance industries, has in return given, “China free rein to use its massive foreign reserves to buy up American companies in advanced industries.”

Atkinson urged the Trump administration’s simple focus on the trade deficit be shifted to two-way trade and demand real changes in Chinese policies related to America’s advanced, knowledge and technology-based industries.

Deal means nothing


Derek Scissors, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, argued that the deal, by itself, means almost nothing since the increase in market access that China now promises has been promised before.


“Even if they are fully implemented, [the increase in market access] can be easily undone,” Scissors wrote in an emailed reply to VOA, adding that he doesn’t foresee the U.S. trade deficit with China being reduced this year.

Scissors urged the United States to prioritize its negotiations with China on reduction of subsidies to Chinese state-owned enterprise, which he believes will improve foreign firms’ market access in China.


“It should also prioritize reducing Chinese complicity in theft of intellectual property [IP]. The IP goal should be accompanied by the threat of sanctions,” Scissors said, adding both steps would allow the emergence of the American competitive edge.

Incremental progress

Agreeing that it isn’t a major deal, Christopher Balding, a professor at Peking University HSBC Business School, however, said the agreement is a step forward for the Trump administration.

“If the agreement is actually implemented, it would represent, I think, a solid step forward for U.S. market access to China. And it needs to be viewed in that context, though, that it is one step further from where we were before,” Balding told VOA, disagreeing that President Trump got played or out-maneuvered.

Balding agreed China has employed what others called a “delay-and-diversion’ strategy and waited for years to honor its commitments, some of which dated back to China’s accession to the World Trade Organization in 2000.


Yet, the diplomatic reality is that, as an advanced economy, the United States doesn’t have a lot of leverage over China to open its market, the professor added.


However, China now appears to respond to embarrassment, triggered by Trump’s earlier angry tweets, which the professor said may provide some unconventional leverage in pushing China.


“If the Trump administration keeps public pressure on China, I do think it would be very likely that you could see additional incremental progress in various specific markets or industries,” Balding added.


While it’s urgent for the United States to demand full market access in China, C.Y. Huang, a partner of FCC Partners, warned U.S. companies are losing their edge in competing with their fast-growing Chinese rivals.


“China is no longer afraid of opening up its market and competition from the United States. Many U.S. companies can hardly compete with their Chinese counterparts in China,” Huang told VOA.

Gigantic steps

Washington heralded last week’s deal as “a Herculean accomplishment.”


According to U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, China will open its market to U.S. beef by mid-July while, in return the United States will issue a proposed rule to allow Chinese cooked poultry to enter U.S. markets by the same deadline.


Beijing will also allow U.S.-owned firms in China to provide credit rating and electronic payment services, the latter of which is already dominated by China’s UnionPay.

Ross said the deal, part of the 100-day plan after the meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping last month, aims to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with China, which reached $347 billion last year.

“This is more than has been done in the whole history of U.S.-China relations on trade,” Ross told a news briefing at the White House, adding the deal takes three “gigantic” step to chip away at the country’s crippling trade deficit.

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