Trump Signs China Trade Deal, Putting Economic Conflict on Pause

Those terms appear likely to benefit American companies and increase exports in coming months, potentially narrowing the trade deficit with China, which has become a focal point for Mr. Trump.

The president trumpeted many of China’s concessions during the signing ceremony, singling out audience members who will benefit from the trade deal. He called out a litany of Wall Street executives, many of whom have been pressing for greater access to China’s financial services market, including Stephen A. Schwarzman, the chief executive of the private equity firm Blackstone Group; Kenneth C. Griffin, the billionaire founder of the hedge fund Citadel; and the heads of Citibank, Visa, Fidelity Investments and American International Group.

Referring to the energy purchases in the agreement, Mr. Trump called on Senator Joni Ernst, the Iowa Republican: “You got ethanol, so you can’t be complaining.”

But those wins have come at a heavy price. The uncertainty created by Mr. Trump’s tariff threats and approach to trade has weighed on the economy, raising prices for businesses, delaying corporate investments and slowing growth around the globe. Businesses with exposure to China, like Deere & Company and Caterpillar, have cut some workers and lowered revenue expectations, in part citing the trade war.

And although Mr. Trump claims that China is paying for his tariffs, studies show that American companies are bearing much of the cost. Since July 6, 2018, when the first tariffs went into effect, companies have paid more than $42 billion in tariffs related to the trade war with China.

Clete Willems, a partner at Akin Gump who left the White House last year, said the deal was important for proving that the United States and China could solve problems with each other despite disagreements and heightened tensions.

“We didn’t fix every single problem with China in this agreement, there is no question about that,” Mr. Willems said. “But what was done is really significant.”

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