Trump likes tariffs — can a China deal be signed?

Foreign Affairs

“I have not agreed to anything,” President Trump told reporters last Friday, crushing the latest round of trade talks optimism, and turning the dial on the Trade War News Cycle to somewhere in between “No progress is made” and “Administration is tough on trade with China.” It does not sound like a deal is even close. Get ready for the Trade War News Cycle to make a few more loops around before the end of the year.

Photo credit: SupChina illustration

“I have not agreed to anything,” President Trump told reporters last Friday, crushing the latest round of trade talks optimism, and turning the dial on the Trade War News Cycle to somewhere in between “No progress is made” and “Administration is tough on trade with China.”

Earlier in the week, the News Cycle was in the “Administration hints at resolution” phase, but unusually, the hint came from the administration in Beijing, not Washington.

“If the phase-one deal is signed, China and the U.S. should remove the same proportion of tariffs simultaneously based on the content of the deal. This is what [the two sides] agreed on following careful and constructive negotiations over the past two weeks,” the Chinese Commerce Ministry had said on Thursday.

Besides Trump, other U.S. officials have further denied that any agreement on rolling back tariffs has been made. CNBC cited “multiple sources familiar with the talks” that said, “The idea of a tariff rollback was not part of the original October ‘handshake’ deal between Chinese Vice Premier Liú Hè 刘鹤 and U.S. President Donald Trump.”

Then, Trump’s in-house China-basher, trade adviser, and academic fraud Peter Navarro described the situation this way in an interview with NPR:

NAVARRO: I can confirm that there is no agreement to remove any of the existing tariffs as a condition of signing a phase-one deal. That did come right out of the ministry of propaganda, as it were, in China – was widely misreported in the press.

NPR: Let’s talk about that. If there’s no deal to roll back tariffs, why is China saying there is? You reference propaganda. What do you think is going on here?

NAVARRO: Well, somebody joked to me yesterday that the real negotiations with China don’t really start until you have a handshake deal — is what we had in October. Basically, they’re trying to renegotiate or retrade the October deal, and I don’t fault them for it. That’s kind of what they do. But the reality is that what is on the table is there’s the tariffs coming in December – December 15. We would be willing, I think — again, it’s up to the president – to postpone those tariffs.

It does not sound like a deal is even close. Get ready for the Trade War News Cycle to make a few more loops around before the end of the year.