California winemakers that have enjoyed an export boom were relieved that China chose to avoid a trade war by giving President Trump a victory in first-round trade negotiations.
The high-powered United States Trade delegation to China that included Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross signed a joint statement with a Chinese delegation led by Special Envoy of President XI on May 18 that commits China to meaningfully increase U.S. agricultural and energy exports. China will also suspend last month’s retaliatory tariffs on agricultural products, including wine.
The spiking of China’s trade surplus with the United States during the Obama Administration from $226 billion in 2009 to $367 billion in 2015 provided the fuel for Donald Trump to crush both Republican and Democrat establishment candidates with promises to end unfair trade with counties like China to bring back middle-class jobs.
But one of the few sectors of the U.S. economy that was thrilled with China’s economic prosperity at America’s expense was California’s wine industry that saw China exports jump by 450 percent in the last decade. China combined with Hong Kong now ranks third at $198 million, behind only the European Union’s 28-member countries at $553 million and neighboring Canada at $444 million, according to the Wine Institute.
Although China’s President-for-life Xi Jinping made promises at Asia’s Boao Forum in early April that China would “significantly lower” tariffs on foreign automobiles, President Trump called the move just a nice jester.
Trump demanded real change and said he was preparing $100 billion in punitive tariffs against Chinese exports, including steel and aluminum. President Xi retaliated by directing China to slap big tariffs on America’s booming agricultural and wine exports.
With little progress in the negotiations by Thursday morning, President Trump made sure his inflammatory comments to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg were leaked that the US has been “ripped off by China” for years and denied rumors his help easing sanctions on China’s telecommunications giant ZTE meant he had gone soft on Beijing.
With President Trump seemingly ready to declare a full-blown trade war on China after Beijing with the negotiation round ending on Friday, China’s Vice-Premier Liu He arranged a personal meeting at the White House with President Trump on Thursday afternoon, without any leaks to either nations’ media.
After the joint announcement that the Beijing meeting had produced a deal, South China Morning Post’ sources within the Chinese government denied stories that President Trump won a commitment requiring China to slash the deficit by $200 billion per year.
But Hong Kong’s most reliable publication for inside news on China’s leaders emphasized that the deal means huge improvements in protecting U.S. intellectual property rights and big cuts in Chinese tariffs. One SCMP sources said that U.S. aircraft manufacturer Boeing would be a major beneficiary of China trade deal.