As we have repeatedly noted, U.S. tariffs are a tax on the American people, not China. The tariffs are generally paid by importers, such as U.S. companies, who in turn pass on most or all of the costs to consumers or producers who may use Chinese materials in their products. (Technically, we should note that as a matter of demand and supply elasticities, Chinese producers will pay part of the tax if there are fewer goods sold to the United States.)
Trump never appears to factor in those costs when he claims the United States will soon have collected $100 billion in tariffs. We’re not sure where that figure comes from. As of Aug. 21, Customs and Border Protection figures show tariffs imposed on China have raised not quite $27 billion, so after paying off farmers, Trump is not even breaking even. (Trump’s other tariffs have raised about $9 billion.)
“The United States, which has never collected 10 cents from China.”
This is false. Tariffs have been collected on Chinese goods since the early days of the Republic. President George Washington signed the Tariff Act of 1789, when trade between China and the United States was already established. Tariffs on Chinese imports have generated at least $8 billion every year since 2009.
“Iran is a country that is not the same country that it was 2½ years ago when I came into office.”
This is a favorite line for Trump, and it’s wrong. He claims the administration’s “maximum pressure” policy has left Iran unable to continue its regional activities. Although the administration’s sanctions have had a significant impact on Iran’s economy, there are also clear signs of Iran’s continued support for proxies and an aggressive stance against sanctions. We detailed the problems with this claim in this video:
“We made a ridiculous deal. We gave them $150 billion, we gave them $1.8 billion, and we got nothing. We got nothing.”
But this was always Iran’s money. Iran had billions of dollars frozen in foreign banks around the globe because of international sanctions over its nuclear program. The Treasury Department estimated that once Iran fulfilled other obligations, it would have about $55 billion left. The Central Bank of Iran said the number was actually $32 billion.
As for the $1.8 billion (actually, $1.7 billion), this was related to the settlement of a decades-old claim between the two countries, not the Iran nuclear agreement. An initial payment of $400 million was handed over on Jan. 17, 2016, the day after Iran released four American detainees, including The Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian. The timing — which U.S. officials insisted was a coincidence — suggested the cash could be viewed as a ransom payment.
But the initial cash payment was Iran’s money. In the 1970s, the then pro-Western Iranian government under the shah paid $400 million for U.S. military equipment. The equipment was never delivered because the two countries broke off relations after the seizure of American hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Iran. Two other payments totaling $1.3 billion — a negotiated agreement on the interest owed on the $400 million — came some weeks later.
“That [Iran nuclear] agreement was so short-term that it expires in a very short period of time. With a country, you don’t make a deal that short. Countries last for long times, and you don’t do short-term deals, especially when you’re paying that kind of money.”
The JCPOA was adopted in October 2015 and formally implemented on Jan. 16, 2016, by the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — China, France, Russia, Britain and the United States — and Germany and Iran.
But as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has pledged not to develop nuclear weapons — ever. In agreeing to the JCPOA, Iran recommitted itself to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran also agreed to abide by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Additional Protocol. It has committed to ratify this agreement in 2023.
Other parts of the JCPOA would remain in force for years after 2026, including international monitoring of Iran’s production of uranium ore and centrifuge parts and restrictions on uranium enrichment and reprocessing of spent fuel.
“They’re allowed to test ballistic missiles. You’re not allowed to go to various sites to check. And some of those sites are the most obvious sites for the creation or the making of nuclear weapons.”
Trump is generally wrong about inspections. Under the JCPOA, Iran’s declared nuclear sites, such as the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, will be under continuous monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency — and the IAEA would have immediate access. Under the deal, for 10 years, Iran will have limits on the enrichment permitted at Natanz; the IAEA will be able to keep close tabs on the production. The JCPOA even allows IAEA monitoring of Iran’s centrifuge production and storage facilities, the procurement chain, and mining and milling of uranium — verification measures that many experts say exceed previous negotiated nuclear deals.
The issue involves the question of what to do if the IAEA learns of suspicious activity at an undeclared site. The IAEA can demand instant access — but Iran could refuse. So the JCPOA sets up a process to resolve the standoff, described in a 29-page document known as Annex 1, that could take up to 24 days to resolve.
This provision was added to remove a loophole in the Additional Protocol, which requires IAEA access to suspect sites in 24 hours but does not have immediate consequences for a nation that refuses to permit access. Some critics have said the 24-day time frame is too long, but that’s not the same as having no access as Trump claimed.
As for missiles, it’s worth recalling that the JCPOA was the product of lengthy negotiations. Iran insisted the deal was limited to the nuclear program, not its missile program. Limits on Iran’s ballistic missiles thus have been handled under U.N. Security Council resolutions, including the one that implemented the deal, which helped slow down Iran’s missile development. In theory, if Iran cannot develop nuclear weapons, it makes the missile program less fearsome.
“China has been taking out of this country $500-plus billion a year for many, many years — many, many years.”
Trump consistently inflates the U.S. trade deficit with China. It was $380 billion in 2018, $337 billion in 2017 and $309 billion in 2016, according to the Commerce Department. Notice that it has continued to grow under Trump.
As we often note, countries do not make or lose money on trade deficits.
A trade deficit simply means that people in one country are buying more goods from another country than people in the second country are buying from the first country. No matter what, people are receiving goods in exchange for their money.
“I’ve spent — and I think I will, in a combination of loss and opportunity, probably it’ll cost me anywhere from $3 billion to $5 billion to be president.”
Trump offers no evidence for this claim. It’s highly dubious, especially when he may not even be worth much more than $3 billion. (Yes, Trump claims he’s worth $10 billion, but Forbes has run the numbers and estimated $3.1 billion.) Note that Trump refers to a “loss and opportunity,” which suggests he’s counting deals that were only a figment of his imagination.
“I ran one election, and I won. Happened to be for president.”
Trump often rewrites his biography to gloss over the fact that he unsuccessfully sought the Reform Party nomination in the 2000 cycle. He announced the creation of a presidential exploratory committee on Oct. 7, 1999, but officially ended his campaign on Feb. 14, 2000.
“Having to do with a certain section of Ukraine, that you know very well, where it was, sort of, taken away from President Obama; not taken away from President Trump, taken away from President Obama. President Obama was not happy that this happened because it was embarrassing to him, right? It was very embarrassing to him. And he wanted Russia to be out of the — what was called the G-8. And that was his determination.”
There are so many things wrong in this passage, made as Trump defended his effort to invite Russia to the next G-7 meeting. Russia, under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin, in 2014 seized the Crimea section of Ukraine, in violation of international law. Crimea was not taken from Obama, as Trump oddly claimed, but from Ukraine.
The decision to expel Russia from the Group of Eight — and to refuse to participate in a planned summit at Sochi, Russia — was unanimously approved by the other seven members in an effort to punish Russia for its actions. The action was also accompanied by sanctions on Russia by the assembled group.
“International law prohibits the acquisition of part or all of another state’s territory through coercion or force,” the G-7 communique said. “To do so violates the principles upon which the international system is built. We condemn the illegal referendum held in Crimea in violation of Ukraine’s constitution. We also strongly condemn Russia’s illegal attempt to annex Crimea in contravention of international law and specific international obligations. We do not recognize either.”
Putin has remained unrepentant about the seizure of Crimea and has not met the demands set by the G-7 to allow Russia to return to the annual gathering.
“If it was annexed during my term, I’d say, ‘Sorry, folks. I made a mistake.’ Or, ‘Sorry folks.’ ”
Hmmm. How often has Trump said he was sorry — or that he made a mistake?
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