A Sunday tweet from US President Donald Trump prompted widespread optimism among those hoping the US and China would avert a trade war with a negotiated settlement, with some saying it is a clear signal Trump was ready to deal.
“It’s very clear that Trump has wanted to find a deal, with the Chinese on trade,” Eurasia Group president Ian Bremmer said in a Bloomberg interview on Monday. “That’s why Mnuchin was sent with a pretty large delegation a week ago,” he added.
Trump’s tweet indicated he was working with Chinese President Xi Jinping to keep Chinese telecoms giant ZTE in business after Washington placed a crippling ban on US sales to the firm. Reuters reported, citing people briefed on recent trade talks in Beijng, that dealing with the ZTE ban was a prerequisite for China to continue negotiations.
“The message was, ‘we have to deal with ZTE before we continue talks’,” one of the people said.
While markets welcomed the news, the unexpected reversal had some segments of Trump’s political base, as well as hardliners in his own administration, worried.
“Why is our president worried about how many jobs were lost in China? Why blink on this now?” one Commerce Department official told to Breitbart News.
Commentary from Trump allies in the media, highlighted by Axios, showed a concerted effort to get the president to hold the line on trade negotiations with China.
Big global interests at home & abroad want the ban on @ZTEDevice Chinese telecom giant lifted–this would be calamitous for U.S. long-term interests. When @GoldmanSachs is happy abt a @realDonaldTrump move on China, Americans shd be worried.
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) May 14, 2018
China wins If U.S. Globalists prevail in this so-called “bargain” with ZTE: China will simultaneously gut WH trade initiatives and Trump Iran doctrine- Trump’s grand bargain on China https://t.co/RZdoxTNF0W #AmericaFirst #MAGA @realDonaldTrump #TrumpTrain #Dobbs
— Lou Dobbs (@LouDobbs) May 14, 2018
Trump Vows to Protect ZTE Jobs — in China? https://t.co/1EDmIsBvyt
— DRUDGE REPORT (Not Matt) Text TRUMP to 88022 (@DRUDGE_REPORT) May 13, 2018
Trump has in the past reversed course after pushback from friendly media sources – on issues ranging from gun control to immigration. There is ample reason for Trump to avert a trade war and keep the economy humming ahead of midterm elections, but it is unclear exactly what China will be willing to offer to allow the US president to walk back tariff threats with a concession he can tout as a major victory.