Eighteen months after igniting a trade war with China, U.S. President Donald Trump - alongside Chinese Vice Premier Liu He - signed Phase 1 of a trade deal Wednesday that, at least for now, defuses the conflict between the world's two largest economies.
In a rambling, partisan speech, Trump thanked a long list of attending business leaders and Republican lawmakers - including former secretary of state Henry Kissinger and Fox Business host Lou Dobbs - and touted the deal as a "sea change" in international trade.
(SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, SAYING:"At long last Americans have a government that puts them first at the negotiating table - first in trade, first in every deal, every decision and every action we take with incredible enforceability." The centerpiece of Phase 1: a pledge by China to buy an additional $200 billion worth of U.S. agricultural products and other goods and services over two years.
The U.S. in turn agreed to roll back tariffs some on Chinese goods, but will leave in place 25% tariffs on a wide array of Chinese industrial goods - $250 billion worth - used by U.S. manufacturers.
(SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, SAYING: "I will agree to take those tariffs off if we agree to do Phase 2.
I'm leaving them on because otherwise we have no cards to negotiate with, and negotiating with Liu is very tough." Trump also said China pledged to confront the problem of pirated or counterfeit goods, and that the deal included strong protection of U.S. intellectual property rights.
But critics like Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer - who in rare bipartisanship supported a tough trade deal with China - said Phase 1 fails to address many of the structural differences that led Trump to start a trade war in the first place.
They include Beijing’s long-standing practice of propping up state-owned companies, and flooding international markets with low-priced goods.
(SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) U.S. SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER, SAYING: "This so-called deal does next to nothing of substance for workers and businesses feeling the brutal and merciless weight of China's trade and industrial abuse.
I greatly fear that President Xi is laughing at us behind our backs for having given away so little at the expense of American workers, farmers and businesses." The signing of Phase 1 occurred as the House of Representatives voted to send two formal charges against the president to the Senate, clearing the way for a trial - and prompting Trump to go off-script to again label the impeachment proceedings "a hoax" and Democrats "dirty cops." (SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, SAYING: "They have a hoax going on over there, let's take care of it...." Trump said he would travel to China in the not-too-distant future for talks on Phase 2 of the trade deal.
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