China Reneges Badly on Phase 1 Trade Deal Commitments

In January of 2020, China signed a trade deal known as the “Phase 1” deal. They committed to increasing their imports of four classes of American-made goods during 2020 and 2021. Those four classes of goods were manufactured products, energy products, agriculture products, and overall goods. The deal used their purchase of those goods in 2017 as the baseline for their new quotas.

Prior to signing this agreement, the U.S. had levied 25% tariffs on half of all imports from China. The effect was dramatic. Imports from China fell from a record of $52.1 billion in October, 2018 to a pandemic-induced low of $19.8 billion in March, 2020, after which it leveled off just below $40 billion per month by mid-2021.

Under threat of having those tariffs extended to cover all of Chinese imports, China agreed to the “Phase 1” deal which delayed the implementation of those additional tariffs for two years in exchange for China’s agreement to significantly bolster their imports of American goods. The agreement was clear about the rewards for meeting the quotas, or the consequences for failure. Meet the quotas, and the U.S. would begin reducing the already-in-place tariffs. Fail, and the U.S. would extend the tariffs to cover all imports from China. China agreed to the quotas and to the terms of the deal and signed it.

The final verdict is in, with yesterday’s release of December’s trade data. Here is a table showing the 2017 baseline trade data, the quotas for 2020 and 2021, and the actual results: Click to access phase-1-china-trade-deal-goals-vs-results.pdf.

China reneged on the deal in spectacular fashion! They didn’t come even close to meeting a single quota for any of the four categories of goods in either year. By the end of last year, China was barely importing half of what they had agreed to do. Their imports of energy products were nearly 80% short. Clearly, they never had any intention of meeting their commitments. They had won the delay in tariffs that they wanted, and they were betting that, when the two years were up, whoever was president at the time wouldn’t have the gumption to enforce the agreement.

Now the question is, what will Biden do? It doesn’t look promising. Through most of his first year in office, he didn’t even acknowledge that the deal existed. As the end of 2021 drew near, his Trade Representative even hinted that they were considering dropping the tariffs altogether, clearly feeling pressure from globalist corporations and pro-globalism organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Then, a couple of days ago, this appeared: https://www.reuters.com/business/exclusive-us-calls-concrete-action-china-meet-phase-1-purchase-commitments-2022-02-07/.

U.S. officials said they would continue to press China to show “serious intent” to reach an agreement on their purchase commitments, but conceded the framework of the deal offered them little leverage to enforce the purchase commitments.

You’ve got to be kidding me! “… to reach an agreement on their purchase commitments?” They already agreed to meet these commitments! Now we need another agreement to comply with the agreement?!?! “Little leverage?” Read the damn agreement, Biden! It gives you the ultimate leverage; it tells you exactly what to do – what China had actually agreed would be fair – to slap 25% tariffs on ALL imports from China. This kind of weakness absolutely sickens me and it should sicken all Americans! Biden talks about how he supports American workers. This is his chance to prove it. Instead, he chooses to cower before the power of China and its pro-globalism lackeys.

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