Ana Swanson and Alan Rappeport
c.2020 The New York Times Company
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump signed an initial trade deal with China on Wednesday, bringing the first chapter of a protracted and economically damaging fight with the world’s second-largest economy to a close.
The pact is intended to open Chinese markets to more U.S. companies, increase farm and energy exports, and provide greater protection for U.S. technology and trade secrets. China has committed to purchasing an additional $200 billion worth of U.S. goods and services by 2021 and is expected to ease some of the tariffs it has placed on U.S. products.
But the agreement preserves the bulk of tariffs that Trump has placed on $360 billion worth of Chinese goods, and it maintains the threat of additional punishment if Beijing does not live up to the terms of the deal.
“Today we take a momentous step, one that has never been taken before with China toward a future of fair and reciprocal trade with China,” Trump said at a ceremony at the White House. “Together we are righting the wrongs of the past.”
The deal caps more than two years of tense negotiations and escalating threats that at times seemed destined to plunge the United States and China into a permanent economic war. Trump, who campaigned for president in 2016 on a promise to get tough on China, pushed his negotiators to rewrite trade terms that he said had destroyed American industry and jobs, and he imposed record tariffs on Chinese goods in a gamble to get Beijing to accede to his demands.
“As a candidate for president I vowed strong action,” Trump said. “Unlike those who came before me, I kept my promise.”
At the White House ceremony, Trump seized on the deal signing as a welcome distraction from impeachment proceedings that were taking place across town at the Capitol, where lawmakers were about to vote to approve House prosecutors for a Senate trial.
Trump denounced the inquiry as a “hoax,” and encouraged Republican lawmakers in attendance to leave if they needed to go vote against moving forward on the matter.
“I’d rather have you voting than sitting here listening to me introduce you,” Trump said. “They have a hoax going on over there — let’s take care of it.”