Donald Trump stmubles home from his sub-par performance at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires saying he’ll hold off on slapping more tariffs on China for at least 90 days now that China has promised to “purchase a not yet agreed upon, but very substantial, amount of agricultural, energy, industrial, and other products from the United States….”
South Dakota farmers desperate to move their beans and justify their Trumpism should be thrilled, right? Well, not really: Trump’s 10% tariffs that triggered all the real harms to farmers remain in place, and no firm relief is signed, sealed, or delivered:
China has pretty much given up nothing in this deal because the future tariffs threatened from the Beijing side were retaliatory in nature and only to be applied if the United State escalated.
…This is not a suspension of the trade war but a suspension of the escalation of the trade war [Stephen McDonell, analysis in “US-China Trade War: Deal Agreed to Suspend New Trade Tariffs,” BBC News, 2018.12.02].
After months of unnecessary market volatility, I suppose 90 days of status quo trade war is better than making the war worse on January 1. But this agreement to maintain fire while we talk some more doesn’t give any long-term guarantees:
No more tit-for-tat tweets, or tariff threats – for now at least. But without real specifics, and some serious giving in from China, it is hard to see that we won’t be back at this position in three months’ time.
And next time – it will be for real – and not just on trade.
There are already rumblings in the Trump White House of restricting visas to Chinese academics and students. This reprieve may be a welcome respite from the antagonism of recent months – but if the two sides don’t come to a credible and substantive deal – things could be much worse in the future [Karishma Vaswani, “The Trump and Xi Deal: A Temporary Truce,” BBC News, 2018.12.02].
If we’re playing poker, Chinese President Xi Xinping certainly looks like the guy who’s holding the better hand:
Before being ushered out of the room where Donald Trump and Xi Jinping were to dig in to a menu of chewy trade negotiations, the reporters gathered there launched a deafening barrage of questions at the US president.
Stony-faced and shoulders hunched, he glowered back at them in silence. Xi, on the other hand, chuckled heartily at the spectacle, loud volleys of questions from reporters not being a staple of his presidency.
The moment spoke volumes to body language experts Rebecca Klein and Keith Scott, who analysed the footage from Buenos Aires and concluded it suggested insecurity on the part of Trump and relaxed confidence in his Chinese counterpart.
The episode immediately put Trump on the defensive, said Scott, one half of the husband-and-wife communications team from Baltimore. “Trump can’t stand the press so he’s not comfortable at all … He wants to have a total sense of power” [Owen Churchill, “Trump’s Slump: What the US and Chinese Leaders’ Body Language Tells Us About Their G20 Talks,” South China Morning Post, 2018.12.02].
Call me when U.S. beans are moving directly to China again.