Speaking to reporters last week from Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump said there would be a signing ceremony for the fledgling trade truce between the US and China.
According to the South China Morning Post, that’s accurate.
Vice-Premier Liu He – who, were he flying commercial on his credit card, would have racked up a truly impressive number of frequent flyer miles over the course of the trade war – has accepted an invitation to make yet another trip to Washington, delegation in tow. He’ll arrive on Saturday, according to SCMP‘s sources.
“Washington has sent an invitation and Beijing has accepted it”, one person who didn’t want to be named said.
Liu’s trip will last “a few days”, which is probably “a few” too many for his liking. He’ll almost surely be compelled to participate in another farcical Oval Office “meeting” with Trump. Those are always silly. Back in April, for example, Trump said the following while seated next to Liu:
We’re getting very close to making a deal, but that doesn’t mean a deal has been made because it’s not, but we’re certainly getting a lot closer and I would think within… within the next four weeks, or maybe less, maybe more, whatever it takes, something very monumental could be announced.
He was right. Something “monumental” was announced. Three weeks later, he escalated the trade war, raising the tariff rate on $250 billion in Chinese goods and shattering the five-month-old Buenos Aires truce in the process.
At one especially ridiculous event in February, Trump and Bob Lighthizer got into an argument in front of a bemused Liu over the meaning of the word “contract”. They also debated the relative merits of MOUs in front of reporters.
Since December 13, when the two sides sketched the contours of the “Phase One” deal, Trump administration officials have been keen to perpetuate the notion that China will be able to lift its annual purchases of US farm goods to between $40 and $50 billion. That seems to be all the White House cares about, presumably because it plays well on the campaign trail.
For their part, Beijing has been careful not to say anything definitive publicly. In the lead up to the agreement, numerous reports indicated that China had not, in fact, committed to specific targets for agricultural purchases. Lighthizer later attempted to “explain” the math – he was somewhat convincing.
Presumably, the market is going to get a look at the whole deal sooner or later. Expect it to admit of more than a little ambiguity.