White House will 'strictly' enforce China trade deal amid coronavirus outbreak

White House will 'strictly' enforce China trade deal amid coronavirus outbreak
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Trump administration officials said Tuesday that they expect China to meet an ambitious commitment to import nearly $40 billion in American agricultural products despite the economic toll of the coronavirus outbreak.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerGOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' Pelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019 Pelosi sounds hopeful on new NAFTA deal despite tensions with White House MORE and Agricultural Secretary Sonny PerdueGeorge (Sonny) Ervin PerdueJustice Department investigating meat price increases: report 11,000 coronavirus cases tied to three meat processors: report The looming USDA deadline to guarantee access to school meals MORE pledged in statements to ensure China meets its full range of commitments under the preliminary trade deal signed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpJustice says it will recommend Trump veto FISA bill Fauci: Nominating conventions may be able to go on as planned Poll: Biden leads Trump by 11 points nationally MORE in January.

Under the agreement, China promised to increase purchases of U.S. crops and meat products by $20 billion in 2020, nearly doubling the $19.6 billion the country spent on American agricultural products in 2017. 

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Trade experts doubted Beijing's ability to meet that promise well before the coronavirus outbreak derailed the Chinese economy. But Lighthizer and Perdue insisted on Tuesday that they will hold China accountable for its commitments, even as the outbreak disrupts global travel and supply lines.

“Under the President’s leadership, we will ensure the agreement is strictly enforced for the benefit of our workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses,” Lighthizer said while also touting moves by China earlier this month to ease  limits on U.S. poultry, seafood, infant formula and other farm products.

Perdue echoed, “We fully expect compliance with all elements of the deal.”

The administration’s warning comes a day after U.S. stocks plummeted on news of a sharp rise in confirmed coronavirus cases and new outbreaks in Italy and Iran. There are now more than 80,000 confirmed coronavirus cases across 32 countries, predominantly in China, claiming more than 2,600 lives.

Quarantines, travel bans, store closures, factory idling and social withdrawal spurred by the outbreak have taken a heavy toll on the Chinese economy and are expected to dampen U.S. growth in the first quarter as well.

Trump has sought to limit the economic damage posed by the virus as he leans on a sturdy economy and strong job market to win reelection in November.

The president tweeted Monday that the virus "is very much under control in the USA," and "Stock Market starting to look very good to me!" despite the sell-off.