OSAKA, Japan – President Donald Trump departed with a major unfulfilled campaign promise just as he revs up his reelection with a gathering of world leaders Saturday without striking his long-sought trade deal with China. But the leaders of the world's largest economies agreed that their teams should have broken down several weeks ago with Trump pushing off another round of tariffs of $ 300 billion on Chinese imports.
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That incremental step is far from what he promised Americans when he was on the campaign trail in 2016 pledging to beat China – the so-called "enemy" that cost the US jobs spied on U.S. businesses and stole U.S. technology.
Trump will now need to try to persuade supporters – some of which have been hit by rising prices due to its many trade disputes – that is not accepting a bad deal with China is actually winning.
It doesn't think they will see this as a failure. I think they will see this as him fighting, ”said Jonathan Felts, who worked in the George W. Bush White House and now lives in the swing state of North Carolina and remains close to the Trump White House. “What they see is a man who is doing exactly what he said.”
At a rally kicking off his reelection campaign in Florida earlier this month, Trump, a businessman who prides himself on making shrewd deals, tried to put a positive spin on his failure to secure a deal with China.
"We'll see what happens, but we're going to have a good deal and a fair deal or we're not going to have a deal at all and that's OK too, ”Trump told the crowd.
Trump held a series of meetings in Japan while attending the G-20, an annual gathering of the world's biggest economies, but did not announce any major agreements with those he spoke to. , including the leaders of Japan, Germany and Russia.
Most of the attention, however, was on trade. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping and their top aides talked for more than an hour at a meeting closely watched by foreign leaders and business executives worried that the trade impasse will continue to hurt the global economy.
"You know, we never really had a deal with China," Trump said at a news conference Saturday. "Tremendous amounts of money were put into China – $ 500 billion a year. And I mean, you know, not just surplus and deficit. I'm talking about real, hard cash. And it has never been allowed to have happened to all of our presidents over the last number of years. ”
Trump had already hit China with two rounds of tariffs after unsuccessfully pushing unfair. China retaliated with its own set of tariffs.
"I think you've heard the president say publicly on a number of occasions that he's quite comfortable with where we are, and he's quite comfortable with any outcome of those talks," a senior administration official said.
On Saturday, at least, they agreed to the ceasefire.
A former Trump adviser who remains close to the White House said Trump still looks engaged on the issue in contrast to lawmakers of both parties who try to tackle tough issues , such as immigration, only when they can't work out a deal. "The minute things got tough, they bailed," the former adviser said. "He's going to keep talking."
But David Dollar, who served as economic and financial emissary to China for the Treasury secretary and is now a leading expert on China for the center-left Brookings Institution, said Trump was never going to leave his meeting with Xi this week with a win when the two sides hadn't been talking for weeks.
"There has never been enough preparation for a really detailed trade deal between China and the United States," he said.
Now, after more than two years of negotiations and his reelection campaign looming, Trump faces intense pressure to find a compromise before his yet-to-named opponent criticizes his lack of deal-making skills and his tariffs continue to cost Americans money, including in states that helped him win 2016.
And some of Trump's allies fear that the tariffs could put in the economy – his strongest reelection selling point – though they did not go back to Trump-imposed tariffs.
“Exporters are suffering from the retaliatory tariffs from China, ”Matthew Goodman, who served as director of international economics at the National Security Council staff and is now senior adviser for Asian economics at the Center for Strategic and Internal tional studies.
“It's causing some political blowback for the president. His polls in some states that are red states and are not as good as he would like. And so, you know, it's possible that he has an incentive to do a deal. ”Scott Jennings, who worked under President George W. Bush and is close to the Trump White House, said Trump still has plenty of time left "Trump is in a strong political position," he said. “He's got so much effort to roll over and accept less is not an option.”