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As the Trump administration’s March 1 deadline for a trade deal with China approaches, with another Xi–Trump summit to follow, it seems almost impossible that a comprehensive agreement will be reached in time. The likely outcome is a punt that defers tariff increases in exchange for ongoing Chinese purchases of U.S. soy and energy.

President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, Nov. 9, 2017. Photo: Artyom Ivanov/TASS via Getty Images

The broad contours of China’s current offer have become clearer:

Yes, but: The U.S. wants more structural changes. China apparently hasn’t proposed satisfactory subsidy cuts across China 2025 sectors, nor a credible commitment to scale back informal “buy China” policies. China denies that it requires technology transfers for market access, limiting what it can offer. The U.S., meanwhile, hasn’t offered to buy Huawei equipment or to stop its campaign to dissuade allies from patronizing one of China’s leading companies.

Where it stands: A modest deal that preserves the truce — marked by ongoing talks, the resumption of Chinese purchases of U.S. agricultural goods and a stay on U.S. tariff increases — remains within reach by March 1. That could provide a bridge to a longer-term deal, potentially announced with fanfare at a summit even with key details unresolved.

Between the lines: Further escalation isn’t in the short-run economic interest of either country. Increasing the current 10% tariffs to 25%, as the U.S. threatened, would reduce the purchasing power of U.S. consumers and eat into the profits of U.S. firms with China-centric supply chains. It would effectively be a $30 billion tax hike on the U.S. economy (and more if the scope of the tariffs were broadened).

The bottom line: The prospects of another extension depend on the Trump administration’s endgame — whether rolling back tariffs to maintain the current level of integration, escalating them with a big step toward economic decoupling, or simply holding on through 2020 and leaving the big decisions for a second term or a new president.

Brad Setser is the Steven A. Tananbaum Senior Fellow for International Economics at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Go deeper

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Trump to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations before leaving office

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump plans to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations on his final full day in office Tuesday, sources familiar with the matter told Axios.

Why it matters: This is a continuation of the president's controversial December spree that saw full pardons granted to more than two dozen people — including former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, longtime associate Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, the father of Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

  • The pardons set to be issued before Trump exits the White House will be a mix of criminal justice ones and pardons for people connected to the president, the sources said.
  • CNN first reported this news.

Go deeper: Convicts turn to D.C. fixers for Trump pardons

Schumer's m(aj)ority checklist

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Capitalizing on the Georgia runoffs, achieving a 50-50 Senate and launching an impeachment trial are weighty to-dos for getting Joe Biden's administration up and running on Day One.

What to watch: A blend of ceremonies, hearings and legal timelines will come into play on Tuesday and Wednesday so Chuck Schumer can actually claim the Senate majority and propel the new president's agenda.

The dark new reality in Congress

National Guard troops keep watch at security fencing. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

This is how bad things are for elected officials and others working in a post-insurrection Congress:

  • Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) said she had a panic attack while grocery shopping back home.
  • Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said police may also have to be at his constituent meetings.
  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) told a podcaster he brought a gun to his office on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6 because he anticipated trouble with the proceedings that day.