On Saturday, Donald Trump boasted that his trade war against China had already left a key sector of the Chinese economy “all broken, like an egg,” according to a report from The Guardian. But a former top trade negotiator for China appeared unworried, saying this week that Trump is the best possible negotiating opponent for the Chinese.
In fact, according to the negotiator, China wants to see Trump reelected in 2020 because, as a negotiator, he is “easy to read,” as detailed in a report by the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post newspaper.
“We want Trump to be reelected. We would be glad to see that happen,” said Long Yongtu, speaking at an investment conference in Shenzen, China, on Thursday, as quoted by the Morning Post. Long, who is now retired from government, served as China’s vice-minister for foreign trade. He was the chief negotiator who engineered China’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2004.
The Chinese prefer to negotiate with Trump compared to past presidents because Trump “talks about material interests, not politics,” Long said, explaining that the president’s only concern is for China to buy more American products — an issue on which China can easily compromise. But previous presidents demanded deep, structural changes to Chinese economic and foreign policy, such as the country’s claims over Taiwan and Hong Kong.
An opponent such as Trump is China’s “best choice for negotiations,” Long said.
Trump appeared ready to declare at least a partial victory in his trade war with China, when last month he announced an “agreement in principle” in the ongoing negotiations. But on Saturday, Trump threw a blanket of confusion over the potential agreement when he told reporters, “I haven’t agreed to anything,” as The Washington Post reported.
On Thursday, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said that tariffs imposed on Chinese imports would be partially lifted as part of the upcoming trade deal. But just a few hours after Kudlow made that statement, Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro said, “there is no agreement to remove any existing tariffs,” The Washington Post reported.
On Saturday, Trump also denied that he had agreed to roll back tariffs.
“China would like to get somewhat of a rollback,” Trump said. “Not a complete rollback because they know I won’t do it.”
According to a report issued on Friday by the free-trade group Tariffs Hurt the Heartland, the tariffs Trump has imposed on China are costing American businesses and consumers billions of dollars.
In September alone, according to the report, Americans shelled out a record $7.1 billion in tariff payments. Nearly 60 percent of that total was directly attributable to new tariffs imposed by Trump in his 19-month trade war, according to the report.