Why Trump no longer talks about the trade deficit with China

As Donald Trump gears up for the final stretch of the presidential race following the Republican convention, a glaring contrast with his 2016 campaign is his silence on the US trade deficit with China.

Mr Trump took aim at China during the convention over everything from its responsibility for coronavirus to its human rights abuses against Uighurs in Xinjiang. But as the November election grows closer, the president has become conspicuously quiet on trade.

During the 2016 campaign, Mr Trump pledged to get much tougher on trade with China, which he accused of “raping” the US. After launching a trade war with Beijing, he secured a limited trade deal in January. But that agreement looks wobbly and the trade deficit remains stubbornly high.

The US trade deficit in goods with China in 2016 was $347bn. For 2019, it was only marginally lower at $345bn.

Ryan Hass, a China expert at the Brookings Institution and an informal adviser to Joe Biden’s campaign, said that, during the 2016 campaign, Mr Trump pledged to negotiate better trade deals for US workers and asked voters to use the size of the deficit as a “scorecard”.

“The reason he doesn’t want to talk about trade [now] is he doesn’t want the media to do the forensics,” Mr Hass added. “Americans got their shit kicked…

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