Trump threatened to escalate his trade war with China again during a cabinet meeting at the White House this afternoon in another sign that Trump's "greatest and biggest deal ever" may not be as close to a done deal as we've been told.
China is "going to have to make a deal that I like. If they don’t, that’s it,” Trump said, before adding that he will increase tariffs that are already on the books while imposing new tariffs still scheduled for December.
The comments came during a meeting with the president’s Cabinet on Tuesday. The U.S. and China, the world’s two largest economies, have been locked in an apparent stalemate in trade negotiations that have lasted nearly two years.
“If we don’t make a deal with China, I’ll just raise the tariffs even higher,” Trump said in the meeting.
Trump's statement that China will "have to make a deal" that he likes, not one that is necessarily beneficial to both sides, is what should give the world the most pause.
The fact is we don't necessarily know what a deal that he likes would look like.
We can infer that Trump would like to see China roll back their retaliatory tariffs without him pledging to roll back any of his own, and we know he would like to see them commit to buying more American farm goods than they have demand for, but those are not realistic demands that can be made by American officials; at least not with any expectation that China will agree to those terms. We really don't know what a realistic plan that Trump will accept looks like or if such a plan even exists. Over a year of failed talks tells us that it may not.
The clock is ticking and if Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are going to sign something at the upcoming NATO summit, they only have two weeks to reach a deal.
Anything could happen, but making threats like this with two weeks to go does not seem very promising.