Mr. Trump, who imposed stiff tariffs on Chinese goods in an attempt to force a trade deal, had said the purchases would lower the US trade deficit with China. Mr. Trump viewed the gap between what America imports and what it exports as evidence of economic weakness, and he promised that his trade deal would generate an export boom, particularly in the farm country, heading into the 2020 election.
But trade data released Tuesday morning show that those results never materialized.
US goods exports to China did grow substantially in 2021 from the previous year, rising 21.4 percent to $151.1 billion in 2021, including a record volume of agricultural goods. But American demand for imports from China also surged, and the US deficit with China widened 14.5 percent from the previous year to reach $355.3 billion.
While purchases of products like soybeans, medical supplies and semiconductors were strong, sales of autos and airplanes were weak, and service exports, like tourism and education, were badly hurt by the pandemic, Mr. Bown’s tracking shows.
China made more progress on other commitments in the trade deal, like removing technical barriers to American agriculture, strengthening protections for intellectual property and opening its financial sector.
And officials in both governments have pointed to the unusual circumstances of the pandemic as a reason for the shortfall, including factory stoppages, shipping disruptions and swings in consumer demand.
But “signing something that was problematic, if not unrealistic, from the start, shows some degree of bad faith on both sides,” Mr. Bown said.
Scott Paul, the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, which represents manufacturers and workers, said that commodity purchases were never the solution to fixing a lopsided US-China trade relationship, and that until more fundamental issues in that relationship were addressed — like Chinese subsidies, intellectual property theft and lax labor and environmental laws – the massive trade gap would remain.