Speaking from the G7 summit of world leaders in Biarritz, France, on Monday, the president said that he had “very good calls” with China over the weekend, and that serious negotiations are soon to resume. Trump’s positive outlook comes days after he announced the United States would hike tariffs on $300 billion in Chinese good beginning September 1st, and on an additional $250 billion in goods beginning October 1st. “I think we’re going to have a deal, because now we’re dealing on proper terms. They understand and we understand,” Trump said on Monday, adding that it’s “the first time I’ve seen them where they really want to make a deal.”
Though the stock market saw an uptick following Trump’s insistence that a deal is imminent, there is absolutely no reason to believe the two nations are any closer to coming to terms than they were when Trump first imposed tariffs on Chinese goods in the spring of 2018.
For one, China doesn’t seem to have any knowledge of the calls to which Trump was referring, and neither Trump nor Treasure Secretary Steve Mnuchin were able to elaborate on the communication that allegedly took place over the weekend.
JUST IN: China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang says has no info on phone calls to U.S. cited by Trump, adding later “I can tell you clearly that I haven’t heard of such a thing”
* Says China will protect itself on trade if U.S. persists with current approach
— Melissa Cheok (@mkcheok) August 26, 2019
Pressed again and again on whether these calls (which Trump described a few hours ago) actually happened, Trump and Mnuchin say there's "communication" but won't say whether there were actual calls that actually happened last night, which is what Trump said.
— Kevin Liptak (@Kevinliptakcnn) August 26, 2019
Trump’s tariff war with China has been a disaster, and the president does not seem to have any real plan beyond continuing to escalate tariffs until China capitulates to his demands, and there’s no guarantee that will happen. Incapable of changing course, Trump is only able to promise, over and over again, that a deal is imminent. The American companies, farmers, and consumers bearing the burden of his tariffs need to just hang in there a little bit longer while the Dealmaker in Chief works his magic.
But so far, Trump’s alleged dealmaking prowess has only resulted in more tariffs and more suffering for the Americans who have to pay for them. Here’s a brief rundown of how the president has been kicking the tariff can down the road.
April 2018: Back when the Trade War was merely a Potential Trade War, Trump seemed pretty optimistic that all would be well. After all, he and Chinese President Xi Jinping are BFFs “no matter what.” Days earlier, China imposed tariffs on $3 billion U.S. goods in retaliation for the tariffs Trump imposed on steel and aluminum imports in March. “As the Chinese saying goes, it is only polite to reciprocate,” the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C., wrote in a statement.
President Xi and I will always be friends, no matter what happens with our dispute on trade. China will take down its Trade Barriers because it is the right thing to do. Taxes will become Reciprocal & a deal will be made on Intellectual Property. Great future for both countries!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 8, 2018
May 2018: Things were progressing nicely, according to economic adviser Larry Kudlow. “The trade talks are going very well,” he told Fox Business. “The president himself has shown more enthusiasm and optimism about this trade deal than I’ve ever seen him in this whole discussion, which has gone back many, many weeks.” Kudlow added that Trump was “very engaged” when a Chinese official gave a presentation on trade deficit remedies in the Oval Office. “He’s really much more optimistic than I’ve ever seen,” said Kudlow.
Barely a week later, Trump tweeted that a trade deal as it was then being discussed was “too hard to get done.” The tweet came two days after the New York Times reported that the administration’s ability to strike a deal was being undermined by infighting among officials.
June 2018: Trade negotiations between the U.S. and China ended with no deal. “If the United States introduces trade measures, including an increase of tariffs, all the economic and trade outcomes negotiated by the two parties will not take effect,” the latter nation said in a statement.
August 2018: Kudlow says talks with China will resume in August. “The Chinese government, in its totality, must not underestimate President Trump’s toughness and willingness to continue this battle to eliminate tariffs and non-tariff barriers and quotas, to stop the theft of intellectual property and to stop the forced transfer of technology,” he told CNBC. “Those are the asks that we’ve been making now for quite some time.”
“Let’s just see what happens,” he added. “Sometimes talks can produce better outcomes than expected.”
September 2018: “We are under no pressure to make a deal with China,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “They are under pressure to make a deal with us. Our markets are surging, theirs are collapsing. We will soon be taking Billions in Tariffs & making products at home. If we meet, we meet?”
November 2018: Trump says a deal is imminent as he prepares to meet with President Xi at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. “China very much wants to make a deal,” he told reporters outside of the White House. “I think we’ll make a deal with China, and I think it will be a very fair deal for everybody, but it will be a good deal for the United States,” he added.
No deal was struck, but the two leaders agreed to hold off escalating tariffs for 90 days, with the intention of resuming negotiations to get a deal done before the deadline expires.
December 2018: Trump teases “important announcements.”
Very productive conversations going on with China! Watch for some important announcements!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 11, 2018
January 2019: In an interview with the New York Times, Trump expresses optimism that a deal will be reached before the deadline. “It’s a very short period of time for a deal this big. But it’s very possible,” the president said. “I believe that a lot of the biggest points are going to be agreed to by me and him.”
February 2019: So when is that deal coming again? “Fairly soon,” Trump promises. “We’re going to have another summit. We’re going to have a signing summit, which is even better,” he told a group of governors at the White House. “So hopefully, we can get that completed. But we’re getting very, very close.”
March 2019: Trump says he’s in “no rush” to make a deal.
April 2019: Trump says a “monumental” trade deal will be announced in “four weeks,” adding “maybe less, maybe more.”
May 2019: Trump says a deal will be struck “when the time is right” and that it will happen “much faster than people think.”
….of the tremendous ground we have lost to China on Trade since the ridiculous one sided formation of the WTO. It will all happen, and much faster than people think!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 14, 2019
June 2019: Trump tells Fox Business that he’s “very happy with where we are now” regarding the trade war with China. “We’re taking in a fortune, and frankly [it’s] not a very good thing for China, but it is a good thing for us,” he added.
In August, JPMorgan estimated that when the latest round of Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods go into effect this fall, it will cost American families an average of $1,000 per year. The following week, the National Farmers Union issued a statement condemning the tariffs, which have wrought havoc on the U.S. agricultural industry. “Instead of looking to solve existing problems in our agricultural sector, this administration has just created new ones,” wrote Farmers Union President Roger Johnson. “Between burning bridges with all of our biggest trading partners and undermining our domestic biofuels industry, President Trump is making things worse, not better.”