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US President Donald Trump is running for re-election in part because his aggressive trade policy with China has been a boon to the United States.
"It's probably the main reason I'm here for the trade and have we changed that?" Trump said at a rally in Michigan on Tuesday. “I burdened China with fat, beautiful tariffs. We raised tens of billions of dollars, ”he said later. (In fact, the money the US Treasury Department received from tariffs was paid for by US importers of Chinese goods.)
However, new data suggests that the US has not yet been able to take full advantage of the Trump-signed trade deal with China. In addition, the issue is not a major concern for US voters.
The final tranche of US-China trade data, released ahead of the 2020 US presidential election on November 3, shows that China is unable to meet the terms of Phase I, signed by the Trump administration ten months ago -Fulfill trade agreement.
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In January, the US and China took the first step to end a year-long trade war. China has agreed to buy an additional $ 200 billion in goods in 2020 and 2021 to ease US tariffs.
According to the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) Trade Deal Tracker, by September China had bought around 53% of what it should have bought to be on track to meet the 2020 deal goals.
"The evidence suggests the deal fails to deliver on Trump's promise," PIIE senior fellow Chad Bown wrote Tuesday. “Not a single reason explains why China did not achieve the goals of the first phase. The COVID-19 pandemic initially turned China's economy on its heels, but trade has recovered faster than most. Some U.S. exports to China – including medical supplies, pork, and semiconductors – even accelerated in 2020. "
After the election, Bown wrote: "The United States needs a new approach to addressing trade concerns with China."
Importance to the voters
The latest numbers undercut Trump's boast about his trade balance, but even his inflated claims may not resonate with voters. Polls show that trade policy ranks low on the issues that matter most to voters.
In a 2016 pre-election poll of registered voters, 57% of respondents said that trade policy was "very important" to their choice of president Candidate, according to the Pew Research Center. Even so, it ranked 11th on a list of 14 questions survey participants were asked about. Likewise, a 2016 Gallup poll found that trade policy was not a top ten issue for Republicans, Independents, or Democrats when choosing a presidential candidate.
Again this year, trade policy is not a major concern for US voters. In January 2020, a Gallup poll found that voters ranked "US trade policy with other nations" 15th on a list of the 16 top issues in the presidential election.
But in the past few months, perhaps due to the pandemic, public support for a more aggressive US trade relationship with Beijing seems to be growing, even if the ballot box hasn't.
In June 2020, Morning Consult found that 39% of voters believed US tariffs on Chinese exports would help the US economy, while 38% said the tariffs would harm them. In the same May 2019 poll, 36% of voters believed US tariffs on Chinese exports would help the US economy, compared with 44% who said they would hurt the US.
Although voters have more pressing concerns, Trump and Biden continue to implement their trade policies on their final appeals.
In the 60 minutes on CBS, Biden beat up Trump for raising the US. Deficit with China.
"We have a trade deficit that is greater with China than it is in our time," said Biden on Sunday in 60 minutes, referring to the Obama presidency.
US trade deficit with China from 1985 to 2019. USTR
Biden made a similar claim in a debate with Trump in September, and as Fortune previously reported, it is at least partially so. The U.S. trade deficit continued to rise in Trump's early years in office, but has since returned to Obama-era levels.
Meanwhile, Trump said at the rally that if he re-elected he would help the US end its "once and for all dependence on China".
To do this, the US may have to start from scratch in trade negotiations with China.
"(The Phase I trade deal) has done very little to address the United States' major trade problems with China," PIIE writes Bown. "Regardless of who is president, the United States needs to get China to liberalize its tariffs, remove non-tariff barriers, and streamline its subsidies and other practices that distort economic incentives."
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