Fox News has been busy hyping President Donald Trump’s signing of the “Phase 1” trade deal with China. There’s just one problem: Experts say there isn’t much of a deal here.
Trump signed the trade deal on Wednesday in a ceremony at the White House. Fox Business host Lou Dobbs was present and Trump gave him a shout-out, calling him “the great Lou Dobbs.” On his show Wednesday night, Dobbs touted the agreement as possibly “the beginning of what would be a new era of prosperity for much of the globe.” He went on to play the clip of Trump talking about him and indicated again that he thinks Trump is the greatest president in American history.
But as The New York Times explained, while China has committed to buying $200 billion worth of American goods, and is “expected to ease some of the tariffs it has placed on American products,” the deal also “preserves the bulk of the tariffs that Mr. Trump has placed on $360 billion worth of Chinese goods, and it maintains the threat of additional punishment if Beijing does not live up to the terms of the deal.”
In other words, not much has changed. Instead, more substantive discussions have been put off for “Phase 2,” with U.S. tariffs being kept in place as leverage.
The Wall Street Journal also reports that the deal’s goals are hard to meet, calling it a “steep climb,” and that U.S. businesses won’t necessarily be changing any of their current plans.
Brad Setser from the Council on Foreign Relations tweeted that there’s “almost nothing new in the currency provisions” of the deal as “China has agreed to disclose material that it is already disclosing.” He continued, “The rest is, more or less, a reiteration of China's IMF and existing G-20 commitments.”
“No wonder this was basically agreed last spring,” Setser added. “There isn't much here. Shouldn't have taken long to negotiate.”
A tweet from Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, also noted just how little was accomplished here.
According to Media Matters’ internal database, Fox News has covered the China trade deal in at least 40 segments this week. And many of the network’s personalities hyped the deal. On Fox & Friends, co-host Ainsley Earhardt interviewed South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem and discussed the “stark contrast yesterday, when you see Nancy Pelosi signing the impeachment articles and sending them to the Senate — and then you see our president, signing this that helps our farmers."
Appearing on Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria, Forbes Media Chairman Steve Forbes confidently predicted: “As a matter of fact, I think in terms of China, I wouldn't be surprised if a phase 2 or maybe phase 3 or whatever, we get a huge deal on natural gas. … And so I think you're going to see hundreds of billions of dollars of China buying of U.S. gas, and I think that's going to change the politics in this country, China being that important in the energy belt.”
Fellow panelist Phil Flynn in turn said that China (which, as host Maria Bartiromo noted, actually buys a lot of oil and gas from Iran) would become a “geopolitical partner that can further pressure Iran.”
And appearing Thursday morning on America’s Newsroom, Fox Business host Charles Payne did the ultimate reset of the goal posts, declaring enthusiastically: “I think it's a gargantuan win. It’s a win — you know, it’s a win because — no matter what we got, would’ve been a win. The path that we were on was ridiculous.”