(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER)
Trump shifts from personal diplomacy as he demands China trade deal before summit
The embrace of hype has not changed. When the U.S. and China finally agree a trade deal, it will be the “granddaddy” of all deals and a “monumental” agreement, according to President Donald Trump.
But as he spoke ahead of a meeting with Beijing’s vice premier on Thursday, the dealmaker in chief signaled a shift in tactics.
“If we have a deal, then we’re going to have a summit,” he said. “If we don’t have a deal, we’re not going to have a summit.”
His words stand in contrast to previous negotiations, characterized by heavy doses of personal diplomacy designed to seal agreements during presidential summits rather than before them.
In February, Trump walked away from a summit with Kim Jong Un of North Korea in Vietnam without a deal. Tizoc Chavez, a presidential diplomacy expert at Vanderbilt University, said the failure of the second Kim summit may have prompted a rethink.
“He does have this great faith in his ability to convince someone. Before the first Kim Jong Un summit, he talked about how his touch and his feel would play an important role,” he said. “Maybe now we see his evolution as he tries to trust his diplomats and officials to lay the groundwork rather than taking on all the responsibility himself.”
Robert Lighthizer, who heads China talks for the Trump administration, said “major, major issues” remain. Negotiations continued for a third day on Friday and are due to carry on next week via video link.
The U.S. is pressing China to make commitments to buy American products, to increase protection for intellectual property, and to rebalance trade between the two countries.
Trump said any deal could take up to four weeks.
Officials initially suggested that a summit could take place before the end of March. However, that sparked concerns that any announcement before a deal could weaken U.S. leverage, reducing the chances of winning concessions, according to a person familiar with the talks.
It suggests a new tack for the author of The Art of the Deal, who as a candidate frequently talked up how he would use his business acumen in the realm of politics.
“Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully or write poetry,” he said shortly before announcing his presidential run. “I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.”
Curtis Ellis, senior policy adviser with America First Policies and former member of the Trump transition team, said the president had no need to take on the entire weight of negotiations by himself.
Instead, Trump forged a consensus around tough action and promoted the decoupling of the U.S. economy from China, winning more time to strike not just a deal, but the right deal.
“Businesses and business leaders are coming around on China as the threat. They are now open to President Trump’s approach to confront China. They are open to tariffs,” he said.
“There’s now a growing consensus that President Trump’s policy is the right policy, so the pressure for a ‘quick deal’ is disappearing as it becomes more obvious that we need to counter China’s expansion in international markets and infrastructure development.”