SHANGHAI — Just days before the coronavirus shut down the Chinese city of Wuhan and changed the world, the Trump administration and China signed what both sides said would be only a temporary truce in their 18-month trade war.
Since then, the pandemic has scrambled global priorities, international commerce has stalled and surged again and President Biden has taken office. But the truce endures — and now appears to be setting new, lasting ground rules for global trade.
The agreement didn’t stop many of the same practices that sparked the trade war, the biggest in history. It does nothing to prevent China from throwing huge subsidies at a range of industries — from electric cars to jetliners to computer chips — that could shape the future, but for which the country often relies heavily on American technology.
In return, the truce enshrined most of the tariffs that the Trump administration imposed on $360 billion a year in Chinese-made goods, many of them subsidized. Such unilateral moves run counter to the spirit of the rules of global trade, which were set up to stop nations from starting economic conflicts on their own and to keep them from spiraling out of control.
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