President Donald Trump only wants a “phase one” trade deal with China that works for the United States, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told CNBC on Wednesday.
“Trump wants to conclude a deal that can be enforceable, that can be reliable and be consistent with what the deal says,” said Perdue, who appeared on “Squawk Box” shortly after Bloomberg reported that the U.S. and China were edging closer to finalizing an agreement before new U.S. tariffs go into effect on Chinese goods on Dec. 15.
In comments from this week’s NATO summit, Trump said Wednesday that China trade talks are going well — just one day after suggesting he may want to delay a China trade deal until after the 2020 presidential election.
Perdue said the trade war, which has seen escalating tariffs on both sides for more than 15 months, has actually been been going on for the past 20 years. “We just didn’t recognize it until President Trump decided to reset the arrangement.”
Beijing and Washington have placed retaliatory tariffs on billions of dollars of each other’s goods, a move that’s hit U.S. farmers. Nearly $20 billion in U.S. agricultural exports went to China last year.
“We in agriculture are optimistically hopeful we can conclude this,” Perdue said, reiterating concerns from some Trump officials that China won’t follow through on its promises.
Farmers were looking for some relief in the phase one deal, announced by Trump in October. Though not signed, Trump said the accord will include purchases of about $40 billion to $50 billion worth of farm products by China.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture in July also authorized up to $12 billion in aid to help farmers who have been harmed by the retaliatory tariffs. However, farmers are looking for a permanent deal rather than help from the White House.
“Every farmer in America would rather have trade than aid,” Perdue said.