Politics

Chuck Schumer, in a letter to Trump, says a weak trade deal could hurt the US for years to come

Key Points
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent a letter to President Trump expressing concern that a weak trade agreement with Beijing could harm American workers and businesses for years to come.
  • Schumer, one of the Democrats most supportive of Trump's crackdown on China, said Americans would lose out without concrete commitments from Beijing to curtail unfair practices.
  • The U.S. and China are due to sign a partial trade agreement on Wednesday after years of intense bilateral negotiations.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks during a press conference after the Senate Policy luncheons in the Capitol on Tuesday Dec. 10, 2019.
Caroline Brehman | CQ-Roll Call | Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent a letter to President Donald Trump on Tuesday expressing concern that a weak trade deal that fails to address "structural inequities" in the U.S.-China relationship could harm American workers and businesses for years to come.

Trump and Chinese officials are due to sign a partial trade deal on Wednesday after years of intense bilateral negotiations. Both sides reached an agreement last month, in which Washington agreed to cancel some new tariffs and reduce rates of other duties in exchange for China purchasing more American agricultural products and addressing U.S. concerns on areas of technology and financial services.

Schumer, one of the Democrats most supportive of Trump's crackdown on China, previously accused the president of caving to Beijing with the phase one trade deal.

In his letter, Schumer wrote that without firm commitments from Beijing that it will curtail its unfair practices, including forced technology transfers from foreign companies to local players, U.S. innovators will "continue to lose billions of dollars." American firms will struggle to gain fair access to the Chinese market and millions of U.S. jobs will be at risk, he said.

"By giving away leverage with a temporary deal of some reduced tariff in exchange for American goods and vague promises of reform, as China has made time and time again, these structural issues will only become more challenging to address in future negotiations," Schumer wrote.

"China pledging to make short-term purchases of American goods will not address the fundamental problems that undermine long-term U.S. economic opportunity, prosperity, and security," he added.

On paper, the phase one deal includes "commitments from China to import various U.S. goods and services over the next two years" worth at least $200 billion, according to a U.S. Trade Representative document. Beijing is said to have also agreed to end its "long-standing practice" of forced technology transfer.

Schumer asked Trump to elucidate on six specific questions about the kind of commitments he had received from Beijing as part of the deal:

  1. What commitments, if any, address the Chinese government's subsidy programs that continue to harm U.S. industry and workers?
  2. What commitments, if any, has China made on substantive state-owned enterprise reform as part of the "phase one" agreement?
  3. What commitments, if any, will curtail the dumping of Chinese products, which puts American firms out of business and threatens U.S. jobs?
  4. What commitments, if any, will hold China accountable for unauthorized intrusions into U.S. commercial computer networks and cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property and sensitive commercial information?
  5. To what extent will this "phase one" agreement regain lost market share for U.S. farmers?
  6. Should farmers expect that additional rounds of program funding will address these inequities?

While experts have said the agreement is a step in the right direction, many are still unsure of exactly what the two countries are agreeing to and how they will enforce their deal.

During the trade war, the U.S. slapped tariffs on more than $500 billion in Chinese goods, while Beijing retaliated by putting duties on more than $100 billion in American imports.

— CNBC's Jacob Pramuk contributed to this report.