hen U.S. President Donald Trump is asked to point to the signature achievements of his first four years in power as he seeks reelection this fall, among those he trumpets will surely be his trade deal with Beijing. The January pact committed China to buying vast quantities of U.S. products, leading to a lower trade deficit and jobs for American workers. And a crucial component of Trump’s deal was massive Chinese purchases of U.S. oil and gas, which were supposed to boost the U.S. energy sector in the process.
Trump’s much-touted trade victory has crashed and burned with the coronavirus pandemic, and nothing more dramatically signals that than the energy part of the deal. Amid the collapse in oil demand and prices unleashed by the pandemic, it is now all but certain that China will fail to meet its targets for energy purchases and expose the folly of Trump’s trade strategy. While Trump was right to address China’s problematic trade practices, the administration’s approach made little sense before the pandemic—and makes even less sense now.
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