Over the past 24 hours, the White House has sent a series of mixed messages about the state of trade talks with Beijing In the midst of persistent jokes that began with Trump's decision to tax billions of dollars in Chinese imports.
Trump has won a victory in the trade war ahead of the crucial midterm elections next week, claiming that Chinese President Xi Jinping wants to make a deal at his expected meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit of leading politicians in Argentina later this month.
"We have had very good talks with China, we are much closer, they want to make a deal," Trump told the White House on Friday.
The US government has offered to host a dinner with Xi in Argentina, US officials said this week. But she too said that a trade agreement with China was still a long way off and that the existing tensions in the administration in China had not diminished. They are not yet able to formally formulate a trade agreement.
The administration has taken a tough attitude towards China in the last two months. Trump escalated the trade war in September by charging tariffs on Chinese goods worth $ 200 billion, in addition to an earlier $ 50 billion round. The move attracted complaints from US importers who have to pay more for consumer goods ranging from luggage to hats to spices. The government also targeted Chinese companies this week over attempts to steal business secrets.
But after talking to Xi on Thursday, the president tweeted that "the talks are going well" – and that meetings are already planned for the G20. The Chinese Foreign Ministry affirmed its positive tone in a Friday meeting with reporters.
Here is a brief timeline of what the President and senior officials have said:
- Thursday morning: Trump says on Twitter that he just had a "long and very good conversation" with Xi and that "the talks are progressing well".
- Noon Thursday: Kudlow tells reporters IThe White House driveway may cause a "thaw" between the United States and China. But he also made a problem with Beijing and crowed that the US economy does better than the rival superpower: "In our view, we are booming – not China."
- Later this Thursday afternoon, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announces charges against a Chinese company for stealing trade secrets and a new anti-industrial espionage initiative.
- Thursday night: At a rally in Missouri, Trump remains optimistic and says that the Chinese "want to make a deal." "In the next short time, many great things will happen," he said. "It will be fine."
- Overnight: Bloomberg News reports that Trump has asked key US officials to draft potential contract terms. The report sends shares higher.
- Friday morning: A White House official goes back to the Bloomberg report and tells CNBC that there is still a long way to go before an agreement can be reached. US stocks were negative.
- Friday afternoon: Kudlow talks about CNBC and says the government is making "routine, routine preparations for the upcoming meeting between Trump and Xi." We are not close to a deal, "he said humor" from the call on Thursday.
- Later on Friday afternoon, Trump repeated how well he thought he had spoken to Xi recently. "There has been a lot of progress," he told reporters in front of the White House.
The Trump government wants the Chinese to deal with unfair trading practices, including theft of intellectual property. Trump also argues that the trade imbalance between the two countries violates the United States.
Many American manufacturers, farmers and lawmakers from both sides of the gang say they appreciate the government's efforts to change China's trade policy. Some argue that tariffs are not the best way to tackle the problems. Tariffs pose a dilemma for US importers when deciding whether or not to take over the higher cost of the goods or pass it on to consumers. Some exporters are hurting Chinese retaliatory duties.
Reporters Jeff Zeleny and Abby Phillip from CNN White House contributed to this report from Washington and reporter Nanlin Fang from Beijing.