Trump opened his mouth in front of reporters yesterday, as he is wont to do, and he may have made a trade deal with China even less likely in the process.
Asked about the potential to sign a trade deal of some description with China, Trump told reporters that he believes they'll reach a deal at some point in the next year because China is very afraid of him.
He said he had told China that if the deal comes after the Nov. 3, 2020 election, it would be on terms “far worse” for Beijing than it could achieve right now.
“I think there’ll be a deal maybe soon, maybe before the election, or one day after the election. And if it’s after the election, it’ll be a deal like you’ve never seen, it’ll be the greatest deal ever and China knows that,” Trump said.
“They think I’m going to win. China thinks I’m going to win so easily and they’re concerned because I told them: ‘If it’s after the election, it’s going to be far worse than what it is right now.’ I told them that. Would they like to see somebody else win? Absolutely,” Trump added.
"They're concerned," Trump says, implying that they're shaking in their boots at the thought of what he'll do to them if they don't give him what he wants.
China is clearly not afraid of the United States or Donald Trump, but even if they were they can't afford to show it. They can't afford to look weak. China's geopolitical gains not just in the near term but also the long term future depend on maintaining a strong economic and rhetorical position against the United States. And each time Trump opens his mouth and claims that China is afraid, he makes it even more necessary for them to dig in deeper and maintain their position.
Trump cannot insult or threaten China into making a deal, and if there is no deal between now and the 2020 election it will be because Trump is incapable of making deals that are mutually beneficial.
Trump's supporters would probably say his fake replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) proves otherwise, but I would remind them that the so-called USMCA is nearly identical to NAFTA. Trump made a series of big and often nonsensical or impractical demands of Canada and Mexico between 2017 and 2018 but he gave up on almost all of them at the last minute because congressional authority to engage in negotiations expired.