May 21, 2018

What Trump is tweeting about on China and trade

President Trump kicked off a Monday morning mini-tweetstorm this morning that touched on his administration's joint plan with China to reduce the trade imbalance between the two countries, effectively freezing his planned trade war.

The big picture: Trump's tweets didn't provide much additional firm insight or detail into how his administration plans to rectify the trade situation with China — though he did explicitly link the issue to his push for peace with North Korea for the first time.

Trump's other tweets:

What we already knew from Saturday's joint statement from the U.S. and China:

  • "There was a consensus on taking effective measures to substantially reduce the United States trade deficit in goods with China ... China will significantly increase purchases of United States goods and services."
  • "Both sides agreed on meaningful increases in United States agriculture and energy exports.  The United States will send a team to China to work out the details."
  • "Both sides agreed to encourage two-way investment and to strive to create a fair, level playing field for competition."

And Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin essentially laid out Trump's tweets in a one-sentence thesis on Fox News Sunday yesterday:

  • "We're putting the trade war on hold, so right now we have agreed to put the tariffs on hold while we try to execute the framework."

What Axios' Jonathan Swan has heard regarding the "China bargain":

  • This was basically foreseeable.
  • Sources who've been in the negotiating room with Trump described his predictable tactics: "threaten the outrageous, ratchet up the tension, amplify it with tweets and taunts, and then compromise on fairly conventional middle ground."
  • There's miles of uncertainty between the two countries — with the added complication of the North Korea negotiations. Because it's Trump, nothing can be guaranteed. But so far, at least, Trump's bite to bark ratio on China is tracking around 85,000:1.

Go deeper: Axios' Jim VandeHei details how China is the greatest, growing threat to the U.S.

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