Trump in Beijing: harvest of trade agreements to more than 250 billion dollars

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – Nicolas ASFOURI – | US President Donald Trump and his US counterpart Xi Jinping in Beijing, November 9, 2017

Donald Trump unveiled Thursday in Beijing a vertiginous harvest of trade agreements for more than 250 billion dollars: what pleases the American president who promises a rebalancing of bilateral trade, even if their realization could be very uncertain.

The agreements, signed for Trump’s first visit to China, were announced with a fanfare at a summit with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, under the gold of the People’s Palace.

They concern energy, aeronautics, agribusiness or electronics, and American giants like Boeing, Caterpillar, General Electric or Qualcomm; the total amount ($ 253.4 billion) is spinning.

All smiles, Mr. Trump, who had made the Chinese trade surplus one of the scapegoats of his presidential campaign, assured that he did not throw stone in Beijing. “Who can blame a country for taking advantage of another country for the sake of its citizens?” he said.

The avalanche of deals has been described as a “miracle” by Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan.

But for James McGregor, China’s president of APCO Worlwide, it’s mostly “old-fashioned politics: a leader arrives and draws prestige from a series of agreements already underway, to which others are added to arrive. to a big number “.

Certainly, the fiery host of the White House “may tweet that he is a formidable negotiator,” he told AFP.

In fact, most of the announcements relate to non-binding memoranda of understanding and letters of intent, rather than firm contracts.

“It is wise to ask what is really going to happen,” warns Christopher Balding, a professor at Peking University, pointing to “vague” announcements and even “routine” partnerships.

– Gas in Alaska –

“Some chord protocols might not work, it’s easy to be cynical, but others are quite substantial,” says James McGregor.

Ⓒ POOL/AFP – THOMAS PETER – | Donald Trump, his wife Melania Trump, along with Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan arrive at the state dinner served at the People’s Palace in Beijing, November 9, 2017

Thus, as Beijing strives to diversify its hydrocarbon supplies, three Chinese state agencies have reached an agreement to mine liquefied natural gas in Alaska, with up to $ 43 billion in planned investment.

However, this salvo of agreements should only rebalance marginally the US trade deficit with the Asian giant (about 350 billion dollars per year according to Washington), and does not change the Chinese protectionism that denounces Washington willingly.

Donald Trump again denounced Thursday the transfer of technology imposed on foreign firms and restrictions on access to many sectors. The United States has recently imposed anti-dumping duties on Chinese aluminum and is investigating Beijing’s policy on intellectual property.

“Staying wide open is our long-term strategy,” Xi Jinping told a delegation of American businessmen. But without any progress appearing on this ground.

“We have not seen any agreement on market access or China’s increased openness to investment, which is more important for US firms than big, unique trade moves,” says Balding.

“Honestly, overall, what we have achieved so far (in commercial matters) remains limited,” said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, citing an “untenable” situation.

While pulling the red carpet to Mr. Trump, with guns and big chords, Beijing adopted a “classic Chinese strategy,” said the former US ambassador to Beijing Max Baucus.

– Montana Beef –

In the list unveiled Thursday, there is an agreement between the US manufacturer of Caterpillar construction machinery and the mastodon China Energy, relating to sales of mining equipment – but without financial details.

Ⓒ POOL/AFP – THOMAS PETER – | Rex Tillerson arrives at the State Dinner offered at the People’s Palace in Beijing on November 9, 2017

For its part, the semiconductor manufacturer Qualcomm has signed memoranda of understanding with three Chinese smartphone producers, Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo, ensuring they can sell “about $ 12 billion” chips in three years.

Boeing signed an agreement to purchase 300 aircraft for a list price of $ 37 billion, without specifying whether all these orders were new.

Finally, in the agri-food industry, JD.com, a Chinese online sales specialist, has committed to purchase $ 2 billion worth of products in the United States over the next three years – including $ 1.2 billion. of meat, including Montana beef.

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