It has been our experience watching Donald Trump engage in his own style of negotiation with China -- if you could even call it that -- that he often makes big promises on behalf of others even if they did not make that promise.
Case in point, Trump has claimed that China will buy up to $50 billion in American farm goods under his "greatest and biggest deal ever," but that claim is apparently under dispute by the Chinese and it has become a central sticking point of trade talks.
Citing sources at China's state-owned importers, Reuters reports that China is not currently willing to commit to a large, specific figure because demand and market conditions probably won't support it.
U.S. officials continue to push for that in talks, while Beijing is balking at committing to a large figure and a specific time frame. Chinese buyers would like the discretion to buy based on market conditions.
“China does not want to buy a lot of products that people here don’t need or to buy something at a time when it is not in demand,” an official from a Chinese state-owned company explained. [...]
“It is ironic that China is pushing back, saying ‘We want the market to address this,’” said Nicole Lamb-Hale, a former assistant secretary of Commerce and a managing director at Kroll, a risk management firm.
The hefty agricultural purchases Trump is asking for are market distortive, Lamb-Hale said. China is telling Trump they are “just not feasible.”
Indeed, the Trump regime has long demanded that China's ruling party exert less influence over markets and capital and yet here they are asking the Chinese to commit to using state-controlled importers to buy goods they don't need thus distorting the free market.
Why? Because Trump needs farmers in the Midwestern United States to support him if he's going to be reelected.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross recently said that Trump's 'greatest deal' may not be ready to sign at the now-canceled APEC summit next month and I think we can infer that this is why.
We know China isn't going to agree to structural reforms beyond what they've already implemented and we know that tariffs on the books today aren't going to be rolled back. The only thing that leaves is China's appetite for soybeans.
Given that Chilean President Sebastian Pinera has canceled the APEC summit where Trump was suppose to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping -- and taking this report from Reuters into account -- I think it's unlikely that Trump will sign a deal with China next month. It could happen but it doesn't look likely right now.