Trump has invited Chinese President Xi Jinping to his gaudy Mar-a-Lago resort for a meeting that Trump is referring to as a "signing summit," but will they actually have anything to sign? Are they actually close to a trade deal of some description?
Based on the testimony of Trump's trade representative Robert Lighthizer, I don't believe they are.
China has reportedly agreed to buy more American products which they would have done anyway if Trump had never started a trade war to begin with, but Lighthizer appeared in front of the House Ways and Means Committee this morning where he said that's not good enough. China must still agree to significant "structural changes," he said.
“This administration is pressing for significant structural changes that would allow for a more level playing field -- especially when it comes to issues of intellectual property rights and technology transfers,” Lighthizer said Wednesday in testimony before the House Ways and Means committee.
The issues on the table between the U.S. and China “are too serious to be resolved with promises of additional purchases,” said Lighthizer, who is leading the negotiations for the Trump administration. “We need new rules.”
There's a good reason why this may seem very familiar.
Trump's tariffs on Chinese goods were originally schedule to increase from 10 to 25 percent on January 1st, but the increase was delayed until March 1st following the G20 summit in November of 2018. Trump met President Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 where the Chinese leader pledged to buy more American products including soybeans. Trump declared victory and delayed his tariffs in response, but those purchases never materialized.
Trump has done the same thing this past week. He declared victory and invited President Jinping for a "signing summit" even though they don't have anything to sign yet.
Just because Lighthizer says a vague pledge to buy more American goods is not enough does not necessarily mean Trump will decided it's not enough when he meets Jingping later this month. Trump could ultimately overrule his lackeys at any time. He could cave and drop his demands or he could explode and increase his tariffs the next day. Anything is possible when a madman who governs by whim occupies the Oval Office.