President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that if China kept delaying trade negotiations until after the 2020 election, "if and when" he won his second term he would make the trade deal the U.S. had with China "much tougher" or even have "no deal at all."
What trade deal?
In March 2018, Trump announced that the U.S. would be slapping steep tariffs on all imports of steel and aluminum to the United States. This triggered a trade dispute with China that resulted in higher tariffs being added to various goods exported by both countries. While conservatives have historically argued against tariffs in favor of free trade deals, Trump has been a big proponent of them.
Since Chinese purchases of U.S. crops like soybeans or sorghum have dropped off dramatically during this trade dispute, the U.S. government has been forced to give nearly $30 billion in emergency aid to farmers who have been negatively impacted.
What did Trump say now?
In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Trump said that there were "no signs" that China planned to buy U.S. agricultural goods as they had indicated that they would.
"That is the problem with China," he said, "they just don't come through."
..My team is negotiating with them now, but they always change the deal in the end to their benefit. They should pr… https://t.co/Oz8toIwVsa— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1564485000.0
...to ripoff the USA, even bigger and better than ever before. The problem with them waiting, however, is that if &… https://t.co/m8Ll0r8jP1— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1564485002.0
Trump suggested that China might be holding out on a trade deal in hopes that former Vice President Joe Biden or another Democrat might win the 2020 election and offer a more palatable deal.
China is consistently one of the United States' largest trading partners. Last year, the U.S. exported roughly $120 billion worth of goods to China, and purchased $540 billion. Having no deal at all could jeopardize this lucrative market.
U.S. exports to China for the first five months of 2019 (the only ones with data published so far) is down more than $10 billion from 2018 ($53 billion to $43 billion). Exports to China were also down overall in 2018 by more than $9 billion from 2017, over the course of the entire year (although they were up slightly in the first five months of that year).