When Trump met Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in November 2018, Trump delayed his decision to increase tariffs on Chinese goods from 10 to 25 percent and announced that China would immediately resume large-scale purchases of American agriculture products.
Trump more or less did the exact same thing over the weekend after meeting with President Jinping at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan where he announced that China would immediately resume purchases of American agriculture.
"Basically we agreed today that we're going to continue the negotiation," Trump told reporters Saturday. "We're going to work with China on where we left off to see if we can make a deal."
In exchange, Trump said China had agreed to increase its purchases of U.S. agricultural products.
"We're holding on tariffs, and they're going to buy farm product," Trump said.
As you know, China did not resume large-scale purchases of American farm products after Trump's meeting with Jinping in November 2018 and there's no indication that they will make large purchases now.
Chinese importers stopped buying American farm products because of the country's retaliatory tariffs on American goods which makes them prohibitively expensive. And those tariffs aren't going anywhere. There is no agreement between China and the United States to lift any existing tariffs. Trump's tariffs on over $250 billion in Chinese goods and China's retaliatory tariffs on American goods will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
Officials statements release by Chinese officials over the weekend make no mention at all of plans to buy American goods, but Chinese state-controlled media did warn that this "truce" is no guarantee that the two sides will be able to reach a deal.
However, the official China Daily, an English-language daily often used by Beijing to put its message out to the rest of the world, warned while there was now a greater likelihood of reaching an agreement, there’s no guarantee there would be one.
“Even though Washington agreed to postpone levying additional tariffs on Chinese goods to make way for negotiations, and Trump even hinted at putting off decisions on Huawei until the end of negotiations, things are still very much up in the air,” it said in an editorial late Saturday.
“Agreement on 90 percent of the issues has proved not to be enough, and with the remaining 10 percent where their fundamental differences reside, it is not going to be easy to reach a 100-percent consensus, since at this point, they remain widely apart even on the conceptual level.”
I can't say that neither side walked away from the G-20 meeting with nothing to show for it because Trump did cede ground by partially lifting export sanctions placed on Chinese telecom giant Huawei, but there's evidence that those sanctions would have caused just as much harm to American businesses as they would to Huawei.
FedEx recently filed a lawsuit against the Department of Commerce to challenge the agency's export controls which stipulated that FedEx would have to inspect every single package that passes through their chain of logistics because they might contain products bound for the offices of Huawei. That would have been virtually impossible, the company said.
The ban on selling telecommunications equipment to Huawei also would have affected a wide range of American businesses that had seemingly lost one of the biggest clients in the world.
My interpretation of these events is that the Trump regime placed extensive sanctions on Huawei without assessing the full consequences of their actions and they used the G-20 meeting as an excuse to walk them back to avoid further damage to American business.
In other words, they used the opportunity to save face.