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Biden’s China Dilemma: How to Enforce Trump’s Trade Deal

“I want the farmers to come tell me, ‘Sir, we can’t produce that much,’” he added.

When Mr. Trump signed the trade deal with China in January 2020, those estimates became enshrined as the word of the U.S. government. And though Mr. Biden and his deputies have criticized the trade deal for failing to address many of the most pressing trade issues that the United States has with China, they have since promised to uphold it.

In a call last month with President Xi Jinping of China, President Biden underscored the importance of China fulfilling the commitments, and his desire for “real progress” in conversations between Ms. Tai and her counterpart, Vice Premier Liu He, a senior administration official said.

Both Chinese and American officials have stressed that purchasing commitments are just one component of the trade deal. The deal also contained promises to streamline China’s import process for U.S. farm goods, ramp up penalties for intellectual property infringement and ease barriers for American financial firms doing business in China, among other reforms.

Ms. Tai has said she is pressing Chinese leaders on those other commitments, as well as on important trade issues that were not covered in the deal, like China’s use of industrial subsidies to bolster its industries.

But she called the trade deal, which is often referred to as Phase 1, “a living agreement.”

“This is the commitment that we bring as an administration to the agreements that the United States enters into with our trading partners, which is, yes, we are holding them accountable,” Ms. Tai said.

China has come closest to satisfying its target commitments on agriculture, fulfilling 83 percent of the purchases it was expected to have made by the end of October under the deal, according to tracking by Mr. Bown.

Corn and pork sales to China have been particularly strong, after an epidemic of African swine fever decimated China’s pig herds. But exports of American soybeans, lobster and other products appear to have fallen short, according to Mr. Bown’s estimates.

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