Bob Lighthizer To Face The Nation: Friday Was ‘Most Momentous Day In Trade History’

Bob Lighthizer showed up on CBS’ “Face The Nation” Sunday to chat about the “Phase One” trade deal between the world’s two largest economies.

On Friday, Chinese officials held a press conference to discuss the agreement which averted another escalation in the trade war scheduled for Sunday. Their comments to reporters indicated that Beijing is not keen to publicly commit to specifics regarding purchases of US farm products.

In a tweet, Donald Trump revealed that the US would be cutting the tariff rate on the $110 billion in Chinese goods that were taxed at 15% from September 1 in half. An official statement from the USTR confirmed the small relief measure. Later Friday, Lighthizer attempted to explain what, exactly, China has committed to in terms of farm purchases. Suffice to say nobody is convinced.

Read more: Lighthizer, Kudlow Talk Up Trade Deal As Skeptical Market Questions Farm Math

During his chat with Margaret Brennan, Lighthizer assured the public that the deal is “totally done, absolutely”.


“What gives President Trump the confidence to say China is going to go out and buy $50 billion worth of US agricultural goods?”, Brennan asked, reminding Lighthizer that “Beijing hasn’t said that number”.

“This is not about just agricultural purchases”, Bob remarked, after attempting to pitch the agreement as some kind of watershed moment for Sino-US economic relations.

Brennan went on to press the USTR on recent estimates that it will take as many as six years before the US soybean industry recovers from the damage caused by Trump’s trade war.


As you can see, he obfuscated.

“It was always gonna be in phases”, Lighthizer said, contradicting Trump who repeatedly (and we do mean repeatedly) insisted that he would not sign a partial deal, right up until he relented in October.

“Anyone who thinks you’re gonna take their system and our system and in one stroke of the pen, change all of that, is foolish”, Lighthizer went on to assess.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Trump clearly though that, and he said as much over and over again, in tweets, at rallies and during various interviews.

And yet, Lighthizer essentially claimed Trump never thought that, let alone said it. “The president is not foolish, he’s very smart”.

“This is gonna take years”, Lighthizer ultimately conceded. He also told Brennan that talks on “Phase Two” will not begin immediately. That isn’t what Trump said Friday, and it’s not consistent with Larry Kudlow’s comments either.

“If you look at American agriculture between USMCA, Japan, China, Korea… we have rewritten the rules in favor of American agriculture on more than half of all of our exports”, he went on to brag.

It’s safe to say many farmers have tuned out by now. The administration’s quixotic quest to “rewrite” the rules of global trade and commerce has been, at best, a hindrance to US agriculture. At worst, it’s been a veritable death blow.

Don’t tell Lighthizer, though. He called Friday the “most momentous day in trade history”.


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