Trump’s $250bn trade deals with China under scrutiny

The White House has unveiled a slew of agreements with China as President Donald Trump seeks to address an imbalance in trade. While Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross boasted a total of $250bn (€216bn) in business deals, getting to that figure may require some fuzzy maths.

Many of the deals weren’t broken out into separate valuations, while a large number were in the form of non-binding memoranda of understanding (MOU) or involved agreements with existing Chinese partners.

Boeing’s $37bn aircraft order consists mostly of previously agreed deals.

An official with knowledge of the matter said the order is mostly for jets that have been agreed upon since 2013 and set to be delivered through 2020.

Chinese airlines have been on a plane-buying spree amid a projection for the country to overtake the US as the largest air-travel market possibly in as soon as five years. The state has previously placed large orders through a centralised buyer before dividing them up among its airlines and leasing companies.

An agreement involving Cheniere Energy was presented at the signing ceremony as worth $11bn, though neither company involved announced the value. Other pacts are stretched over lengthy periods, such as a 20-year shale gas and chemical project in West Virginia. Watched by President Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping at a signing ceremony in Beijing, US planemaker Boeing, General Electric and chip giant Qualcomm sealed lucrative multi-billion dollar deals.

The quarter of a trillion dollar haul underscores how President Trump is keen to be seen to address a trade deficit with the world’s second-largest economy that he has long railed against and called “shockingly high”.

But US businesses still have many long-standing concerns to complain about, including unfettered access to the China market, cybersecurity and the growing presence of China’s ruling Communist Party inside foreign firms. Still, the wave of deals signals the potential for an easing of tensions between the two countries, in addition to an increase in trade for products ranging from helicopters to beef.

Some huge deals were announced. Among them the 20-year $83.7bn investment by China Energy Investment Corp in shale gas developments and chemical manufacturing projects in West Virginia, a major energy-producing state that voted heavily for Donald Trump in the 2016 election.

“The massive size of this energy undertaking and level of collaboration between our two countries is unprecedented,” West Virginia Secretary of Commerce H. Wood Thrasher said in a statement.

Reuters and Bloomberg

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