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The ConMans 'big deal with China' isn't big,... isn't a deal,... and isn't real


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America’s farmers can now rejoice, praise Donald Trump, and “buy much larger tractors.” Or at least that’s the word that Trump handed down after he inked a preliminary deal with China on Thursday evening. But—shocking as it may seem—there are not many connections between Trump’s claims about this deal and the actual deal in the real world.

 

As The New York Times reports, this deal is still a long, long way from the kind of victory that Trump has promised for his long-running trade war. It won’t come close to restoring the fortunes of American farmers, who have been suffering a record level of bankruptcies since Trump decided to prove his toughness by blowing up international relations. It also won’t pave over the massive payments Trump has handed out in an effort to minimize the damage. 

 

The agricultural purchases required in the agreement are both vague and clearly far too small to restore even the conditions that existed before Trump’s actions sent China looking to South America and other regions to replace goods they would have previously purchased from America. In 2019, farm debt topped $416 billion—absolutely swamping the scale of Trump’s “enormous deal,” even when including non-agricultural products. 

 

Even as bankruptcy is up 24% in a single year, Trump is telling America’s farmers that it’s time to buy “much larger tractors” to generate all the grain required by this deal. Trump says that he expects China to buy $50 billion of U.S. agricultural products. That $50 billion figure is one that Trump has deployed before. It’s just that the date keeps shifting. And shifting. That number is imaginary, but the exploding farm debt and bankruptcies are very real.

 

The hole between what Trump “expects” and what’s actually in the deal is far larger than any of the gaps Republicans complained about in the impeachment case. As in Trump doesn’t give any timetable for those purchases, or any description of how they will be configured, or any real reason to believe the purchases will happen at all. When will farmers see new purchases from China? “Pretty soon,” says Trump.

 

That’s not exactly something that cash-starved farmers can take to the bank when asking for that new tractor loan. Though imaginary tractors will probably do for this imaginary deal.

 
 

In fact, Trump’s massively hyped trade deal is such a preliminary step that it’s not even getting rid of the tariffs he’s put in place. The 25% tariff on over $250 billion of Chinese products is untouched, while the 15% tariff that was placed on another $150 billion in goods is dropping to 7.5%. Or, 7.5% higher than they were in September—which is not a great sign that a trade war has “ended.”

 

Trump trotted out Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin to make claims that the new deal provides protections for intellectual property, but like everything else in this deal … it’s unclear there’s any actual deal at all. China seems to be admitting only that the two countries have made “substantial progress” toward ending the trade war. Sadly enough, we’ve long passed the point where what Trump has to say about this deal can be trusted any more than the latest dispatch from Xi Jinping.

 

From what’s been released so far, this deal appears to be absolutely no more substantial than any of the previous “China trade deals” that Trump has announced. In fact, Trump made almost exactly the same announcement all the way back in May. And in April. And in December of 2018

 

In fact, consider this a public service announcement: Attention Farmers, before you somehow ignore record bankruptcies and record farm debt and convince a bank to give you yet another loan so that you can buy one of those "much larger tractors" that Trump says you will need "very soon," please check the date on this tweet:

 

Farmers will be a a very BIG and FAST beneficiary of our deal with China. They intend to start purchasing agricultural product immediately. We make the finest and cleanest product in the World, and that is what China wants. Farmers, I LOVE YOU!

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