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U.S. Business Adviser Weighs In On Possible U.S.-China Trade Deal


It's possible the U.S. and China have reached a phase one trade deal. According to multiple news outlets, an agreement in principle is now in place. Anja Manuel is a former State Department official, and now she advises American companies doing business with China for RiceHadleyGates.


ANJA MANUEL: Well, hi. Happy to be here.

CHANG: So I understand that you've been hearing about this deal for weeks now. What do you know about what's in it?

MANUEL: I have. No new information has come out today that I've seen. But what's been in it before is that China has agreed to buy more of our farm products - between 40 and 50 billion over two years. And also, that would be part of buying 200 billion worth of U.S. goods and services over a total of two years. To put that in perspective, they were buying that amount anyway before the trade war. So in a way, we're just climbing out of the hole we've dug ourselves.

CHANG: Right. So I mean, China pretty much stopped buying American soybeans, for example, during this trade. Where - how much of a rebound might we expect in the short term for soybean farmers here, you think?

MANUEL: Well, I hope it's a big rebound because our farmers have really been suffering. At the height of the trade war - you know, we used to export 60% of our soybeans to China. At the height of the trade war, it was down to 2%. And most of that business has gone to Brazilian farmers. So I certainly hope that it rebounds, but it's anyone's guess how quickly it will.

CHANG: Now, from your point of view, has this trade war, which is not over yet - let's just make that clear - has this trade war done lasting damage, do you think? I mean, how hard will it be for American companies and farmers to gain back the Chinese market that they've lost?

MANUEL: I do think it has done lasting damage. I have to say upfront that U.S. and Western businesses in general do agree that the playing field with China has not been fair. And something does need to be done to make the structural issues that make the Chinese refuse us market access, that have subsidies to Chinese state-owned enterprises, all of those things that make it really hard to compete in China - we need to do something about that.

This phase one deal doesn't actually do that. It does have one good provision, which is more protection of intellectual property and that it adds a couple of other things that China was already doing, such as greater access for a financial services company and some guidelines for how China manages its currency. But overall, especially in the tech sector, you asked about lasting damage.

CHANG: Yeah.

MANUEL: The decoupling between the tech sectors between China and the U.S. is happening rapidly, and I don't see that being reversed anytime soon.

CHANG: Now, you advise American companies doing business with China. As much there - as much as there still are really big knots to untangle as this trade war continues, how big of a sigh of relief do you think this is for them - this phase one deal, this agreement in principle?

MANUEL: I think it's an enormous sigh of relief for farmers. It's some sigh of relief for our consumer goods companies, our retailers who are importing, you know, electronics and toys and shoes, all of those things where the tariffs will now be lowered, as it's been reported. So it's a big relief for them. For the tech sector, I don't see much relief - not so great for them.

CHANG: That's former diplomat Anja Manuel. She's also co-founder of RiceHadleyGates.

Thank you.

MANUEL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.