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Trump has made us weak — Paul Krugman says the US-China trade deal achieved almost nothing, and consumers and farmers paid the price

Donald Trump rally DallasJonathan Ernst/Reuters

  • Donald Trump’s “phase one” trade deal with China achieved almost nothing, and American consumers and farmers footed the bill for his trade war over the past 18 months, according to Paul Krugman.
  • “However Trump may try to spin this, he lost,” the Nobel Prize-winning economist tweeted. “Trump has made us weak, neither trusted by our allies nor feared by our enemies.”
  • Krugman said that American consumers paid for the tariffs, farmers suffered, businesses will remain uncertain about US trade policy, and the Chinese learned that “Trump talks loudly but carries a small stick, and can be rolled.”
  • View Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.


Donald Trump’s “phase one” trade deal with China achieved almost nothing, and American consumers and farmers footed the bill for his trade war over the past 18 months, according to Paul Krugman.

“Trump is going to be claiming victory in his trade war,” the Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist said in a Twitter thread on Sunday. “The truth is that there are almost never winners in trade wars — but there are losers. And however Trump may try to spin this, he lost.”

As part of its “phase one” agreement with China, the US agreed to scrap planned tariffs on $160 billion of Chinese imports and halve the tariff rate on another $120 billion of Chinese goods to 7.5%.

‘Ending up where they started’

In exchange, the Trump administration said China would spend at least $16 billion more on agricultural goods in each of the next two years, and overall US exports to China would nearly double. However, experts are skeptical whether those volumes are realistic, and China hasn’t yet committed to specific targets.

“Trump tried to bully them; they hung tough; and are basically ending up where they started, buying agricultural products while selling us increasingly sophisticated manufacturing goods,” Krugman tweeted.

During the trade war, US exports to China have dropped in price by more than Chinese exports to the US have. The trend suggests US consumers paid for the tariffs and the Chinese found it easier to source substitutes for US goods, Krugman continued.

Twice the size of the auto bailout

The upshot is that “farmers have suffered, with a number going bankrupt, despite a bailout *twice the size of Obama’s auto bailout*” he tweeted.

Even if the US and China strike a comprehensive deal, their trade war will have two long-run costs, Krugman said. Firstly, businesses will remain uncertain about capricious US trade policy. Secondly, the Chinese have “learned the same lesson North Korea’s Kim learned: Trump talks loudly but carries a small stick, and can be rolled.”

“Trump has made us weak, neither trusted by our allies nor feared by our enemies,” he added.

The president has also backed down from another tariff battle with Mexico, Krugman pointed out.

“Trump wimped out early on trade war with Mexico, basically leaving NAFTA intact but trying to stick his name on it,” he tweeted, referring to the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

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