Details about what American and Chinese officials are actually saying to each other during trade negotiations remain scarce, but the Associated Press reports that Trump is adamant about having his cake and eating it too.
Previous reports told us that Trump was not willing to immediately lift his tariffs once a deal is signed, but the Associated Press reports that he wants to make some tariffs more or less permanent.
Analysts say two major sticking points, in particular, stand in the way of any agreement.
First, Trump wants to preserve at least the 25% tariffs he has imposed on $50 billion in Chinese imports as a way to maintain leverage over Beijing. China wants those sanctions lifted.
Second, the two sides must develop a mechanism to ensure that China honors any commitments it makes in an agreement. The administration complains that China has repeatedly failed to keep promises it made in previous trade talks.
Asking the Chinese to impose new restrictions on their own businesses just to protect American corporations is a tall order all its own.
Asking or expecting them to do that while a significant pile of tariffs remain on the books seems preposterous to me.
It's hard to imagine Chinese President Xi Jinping would have the political support to give in to Trump's demands (if he even wanted to) without an agreement that will lift all tariffs imposed by Trump since 2018.
Trump probably think he's just driving a hard bargain not unlike he would with a contractor he's preparing to stiff, but he's not dealing with a plumber; he's dealing with a sovereign nation of nearly 1.4 billion people.