Following a story from The Washington Post quoting a former U.S. government official who was said to have been in contact with Chinese officials, claiming Beijing are “puzzled and irritated” by the Trump administration’s behavior, and widespread confusion across media claiming the 'truce' as a nothingburger; China's Ministry of Finance has denied any confusion or negativity exists.
The WaPo report went to claim the unknown former US official said:
“You don’t do this with the Chinese. You don’t triumphantly proclaim all their concessions in public. It’s just madness,” the former official, who asked for anonymity to describe confidential discussions, told the Post.
While President Trump’s dinner with Chinese leader Xi yielded a cease-fire in the trade war between the world’s two biggest economies, judging by the market's moves today, the details are proving less than satisfying to those hungering for a lasting truce.
But, tonight, China says trade meeting with U.S. is “very successful” and is “confident” to implement the results agreed upon at the talks, according to a statement on Ministry of Commerce website.
A reporter asked: We know that the Chinese economic and trade team has returned to Beijing. What is your comment on this meeting?
A: The meeting was very successful and we have confidence in the implementation.
Q: How is China prepared to promote the next economic and trade consultation?
A: The economic and trade teams of the two sides will actively promote the consultation work within 90 days in accordance with a clear timetable and road map.
Q: What are the priorities for China?
A: China will start from implementing specific issues that have reached consensus, and the sooner the better.
Of course, as Torsten Slok, chief international economist at Deutsche Bank AG said:
“The market wants to see more details before it can make up its mind,
It remains unclear for the market whether the trade war will escalate or deescalate from here.”
And, as Axios reports, Mike Pillsbury is worried Trump's negotiations with China are unraveling. The hawkish former Pentagon official — who Trump has called "probably the leading authority on China" and who reportedly huddled with Trump in the Oval the day before Trump left for his G20 meeting with President Xi — said "there's a risk the deal will come undone."
Pillsbury said he's "getting warnings from knowledgeable Chinese about the American claims of concessions" that the Chinese have said they never made. These contradictions include U.S. claims that the Chinese agreed to "immediately" address their most egregious industrial behavior, to "immediately" restart purchases of U.S. agriculture, and to slash tariffs on American cars.
"I have advised the president's team that for the past 40 years the American side avoids disclosing Chinese concessions before the final agreed written statement is released," Pillsbury told me in a phone interview today.
Sounds an awful lot like WaPo's anonymous source? And is the opposite of the official word from China.
Pillsbury's comments were rapidly followed by White House trade adviser Peter Navarro who told Fox News that it would be premature for people to “lose faith” in the trade discussions the U.S. is holding with China.
“The Chinese haven’t even gotten back to China yet,” Navarro tells Fox in an interview;
“Let’s give it some time”
Navarro says he is bullish on the economy and “I’m bullish on this deal”
Navarro also noted he is optimistic about progress being made over market access and structural changes with China during the 90 day-period in which the talks will be held.
However, Navarro did admit that communication by the administration over the outcome of the talks perhaps could have been better, pointing out, echoing Mnuchin's earlier comments, that the market may be “trying to parse whether the Fed’s going to raise interest rates again," which Navarro says would be a mistake.
Nevertheless, President Trump would have the last word once again,
insisting, as he did earlier that "We are either going to have a REAL DEAL with China, or no deal at all..."
We are either going to have a REAL DEAL with China, or no deal at all - at which point we will be charging major Tariffs against Chinese product being shipped into the United States. Ultimately, I believe, we will be making a deal - either now or into the future....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 5, 2018
.....China does not want Tariffs!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 5, 2018
Which some may interpret as Trump giving himself an 'out' if things don't work out - although "Tariff Man" has been consistently hawkish.