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What Trump really gets from his China deal

The master of the art of the deal finally has a win to celebrate.

He’ll pump it as one of history’s great breakthroughs — but in true Trumpian style, the trade pact the President is expected to sign today with China has more flash than substance. And as CNN’s Donna Borak reports, hardly anyone in Washington outside his administration has actually seen it yet.

The deal does pause the trade war, and appears to pry open more Chinese markets and commit Beijing to buy $200 billion in US agricultural, auto, manufacturing and aviation goods. And Trump will keep many tariffs on Chinese imports.

But China didn’t give ground on the issues it cares about most — like US demands for cuts to state subsidies that would force it to fundamentally remake its economic system. Trump also removed the US designation that Beijing is a currency manipulator. It’s anyone’s guess whether China will fulfill pledges like buying tons more US products and protecting intellectual property rights.

Given the fairly incremental gains after months of trade trench warfare, and the cost to US consumers, manufacturing and farmers — who needed a $28 billion bailout — the question must be asked: What did Trump gain?

He got a political win by burnishing his mythology as a negotiator and standing up to China. So what if this deal, like others he renegotiated with Canada, Mexico and South Korea doesn’t change much? Trump will trumpet it on the campaign trail and ignore the reality that he’s not actually that great at closing political deals.

No one thinks this deal is a permanent peace. In reaching for the age-old tariffs bludgeon, America may have hastened the collapse of the global free trading consensus. It also pivoted from nearly 50 years of trying to encourage and manage China’s rise, into full-on confrontation: China and the US may now have crossed a threshold that could see them begin to decouple their economies and supply chains — a process that could trigger global shockwaves.

Article Topic Follows: US & World

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