It is a good rule of thumb to be suspicious of any “official” announcement just before the close of business on a Friday afternoon. The timing suggests that the news is anything but good and the details are hoped to be buried by the weekend that is soon to begin. In that light, the timing of Friday’s announcement of the long-sought U.S.-China bilateral trade agreement is a stark contrast to the claim of U.S. officials that it is “amazing” and “historic.” A more accurate assessment is that the deal is valuable if it ends the — self-inflicted — pain and uncertainty created by their trade war, but objective experts note that gains from the agreement were not worth the costs of the fight.

U.S. President Donald Trump has denounced Chinese trade policy since announcing his candidacy, and in March 2018 he began imposing tariffs on Chinese exports to the United States to end the trade deficit that he claimed was proof of the country’s unfair practices and to halt the theft of U.S. intellectual property. In the 21 months since, he imposed tariffs on two-thirds, or $370 billion, of Chinese imports — sums that he wrongly claims are paid by Chinese firms; In fact they are paid by U.S. companies and often passed on to consumers — and had threatened another $160 billion on Sunday.

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