Trump's unhinged trade representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin are traveling to China for face-to-face trade talks next week and while they're trying to placate the market with happy statements, officials quietly say a hypothetical trade deal is still very far away.
While the talks represent a critical next step after a truce reached between the countries' leaders in June, a deal is not viewed as near. [...]
Longer-term, U.S. officials have suggested they could roll back the tariffs in exchange for Beijing making the deal legally binding — something it backtracked on in May.
White House officials are now suggesting that getting China to agree to the latter could take several months at least, even though Trump remains inclined to ink an eventual deal, according to three people familiar with the matter.
Secretary Mnuchin also spoke to CNBC and listed the issues they still need to resolve and it looks like the list includes everything.
“There’ll be a few more meetings before we get a deal done,” he later told reporters at the White House. “I wouldn’t expect that we’ll resolve all the issues. But the fact that we’re back at the table at the direction of the two presidents is important.” [...]
According to the White House, “the discussions will cover a range of issues, including intellectual property, forced technology transfer, non-tariff barriers, agriculture, services, the trade deficit, and enforcement.”
The list of issues they need to resolve may sound familiar because it's the same list of issues we first heard about literally a year ago.
It's not clear if they're restarting from scratch in the latest round of talks, but we do know that nothing has been agreed to until everything has been agreed to.
Personally, I'm skeptical that a deal will be completed in six months and I'm skeptical that Trump could even wait that long. Tariffs are burning a hole in Trump's pocket and I find it hard to believe he can go that long without blowing it all up on a whim at some point in the next two or three months, let alone six.
But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe they're closer to a deal than all available evidence tell us.