The Great PRC Bum Rush to Beat Trump's Tariffs

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 11/12/2018 03:51:00 PM
"In the Red[s] corner, the heavyweight exporting champion of the world..."
The veritable explosion of exports from the PRC to the United States is definitely related to the Trump administration's tariff-slapping ways. At the moment, the Yanks have applied 10% tariffs to $250B worth of China-made goods. At the start of 2019, if matters do not change substantively, these rates are scheduled to be raised to 25%. Having established supply chains deep in the PRC, what's an American importer to do? So far at least, may have decided to front-load imports while tariffs are still *only* 10%:
China’s imports into the U.S. hit a monthly record in September, with the fourth quarter setting up for more potential records. Along with container import and trucking demand data from U.S. import gateways, the trade figures show the first round of tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese goods have done little to dissuade U.S. customers.
Instead, they sparked a “pull forward” effect by shippers to beat deadlines for tariffs on Chinese goods. The effect has not been uniform across all imports, with only some segments showing unusual growth. But the effect could pick up speed though the rest of the year as higher tariffs start in 2019.
The total dollar value of Chinese goods imported into the U.S. hit $50 billion in September, according to Department of Commerce figures released last week, up 10% year-on-year. Year-to-date, the dollar value of Chinese goods coming to the U.S. are up 8% to $394.7 billion. 
As front-loading implies, there will be hell to pay once this surge ends with the presumed imposition of 25% tariffs forthcoming as PRC-US trade dries up:
Analysts have said the practice by Chinese exporters of accelerating production and shipment now to avoid the upcoming tariff increase – or “front-loading” orders – is one probable reason behind China’s strong export performance since Washington started to levy its first round of tariffs on Chinese imports in early July.

The practice may be widespread, because Chinese exports of chemicals, non-ferrous metals, plastics and special industrial machinery were the fastest-growing Chinese export categories in September, according to Chinese customs data, despite all of them being included on US tariff lists. But fulfilling next year’s orders so far in advance could lead to a significant slowdown in future sales if US clients reduce their next orders accorditongly. China’s official purchasing manager’s index has shown new export orders have been contracting since June.

“Increased demand for shipments has pushed up shipping rates and some exporters are even having trouble finding any space on cargo ships,” Ding said. But the situation could quickly turn bad next year, he warned, as exporters face a double blow from fewer new orders and a sharp depletion of existing orders.
Where Chinese firms used to sending stuff Stateside will go to next if tariffs are hiked once more is an open question. For now, though, it's as though PRC concerns are making and shipping stuff to America like there's no tomorrow...or at least next to no orders come early 2019.

Depopulation R Us: Ending US Birthright Citizenship

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 10/30/2018 03:22:00 PM
Maybe the white supremacist xenophobe Trump will soon ban multicultural baby dolls, too.
Hey, perhaps Trump is an IPE Zone reader, of all things possible in this strange world. Just yesterday, I discussed how Canada's "human stimulus" is allowing that country to keep up with rising interest rates Stateside as growth is being fueled in Canada by an influx of work-ready migrants. Apparently not content with keeping coloreds out in attempting to Make America White Again, Trump has a new plan to avoid citizenship privileges for those born in it.

As a new anti-immigration gimmick, Trump is signaling that he want to issue an executive order terminating birthright citizenship in the United States of America, or jus soli:
President Trump is planning to use an executive order to strip birthright citizenship from America's laws, rather than trying to change the Constitution through an act of Congress. The potential move, which would likely trigger numerous legal challenges, would seek to end the conferring of citizenship to children of non-citizens who are born in the U.S. — which is currently guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.

"It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don't," Trump said. He discussed the plan in an interview with Axios on HBO that is slated to air Sunday.
The American constitution is pretty clear on this matter, though, so it's going to be a more difficult task than, say, starting multiple trade wars to deny citizenships to those born on U.S. soil:
Birthright citizenship is granted in the 14th Amendment's first sentence: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

The concept is based on jus soli — "right of the soil" — meaning that any child born in the U.S. has a claim to citizenship, even if their parents lack legal documentation to be in the country.
In any event, Trump claims he can single-handedly rescind the 14th Amendment:
To change the law, Sherry said, you would need to either amend the 14th Amendment through Congress or ask the Supreme Court to overturn their earlier interpretation of the law and limit its benefit to people who are in the U.S. legally.

The president says he has the power to act on his own. "You can definitely do it with an act of Congress," Trump said in the Axios on HBO interview. "But now they're saying I can do it just with an executive order." He added, "We're the only country in the world where a person comes in, has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years, with all of those benefits. It's ridiculous. It's ridiculous, and it has to end."
To recap, the Trump administration is already using various means to significantly limit legal and illegal immigration to a country whose demographics are unpromising, with a birth rate well below the replacement rate of 2.1 births per woman. On top of that, Trump is proposing to disallow citizenship to a not-inconsequential number of those giving birth Stateside.

So, who's going to be left in America at this rate to pay for all the retirement benefits of these old, angry white Trump voters? Like Trump, they have no seeming appreciation of basic economics unless they intend to work till age 80. To draw retirement benefits, there must be persons of working age paying into the system. If natives aren't willing to have children doing so, and you limit non-natives from working who can do so--as well as their children--then the system is unsustainable.

Canada's 'Human Stimulus': Inward Migration

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 10/29/2018 05:38:00 PM
Don't want to be treated like #$%^ because you aren't a white male 'Christian'? Then go to Canada, not Trump's America.
Bloomberg has an interesting report about how Canada is taking the opposite tack to what the United States is doing under Donald Trump. The current US president knows what got him elected: spewing barely-concealed hatred against everyone except white so-called 'Christian' males like him. You name it: women, people of color, people of different faiths, people of different sexual orientations have been singled out for Making America Worse Right Now compared to some fantastical golden age when white 'Christian' males ruled and all these inferiors knew their subordinate place in the US of A. As you would expect, restricting the inward migration of all these people--legal or otherwise--has become a Trump administration policy priority.

Fortunately, the United States' northern neighbors are not practicing discrimination to such an extent. Both are generally in the same boat since they have below replacement total fertility rates which imply population declines going forward absent further migration. That is, where will all the workers come from to replace those retiring...like all those aging white 'Christian' male Trump voters? Canada is way more open to migrants right now, and that's helping it hike interest rates to follow those of the United States:
The U.S. has its fiscal stimulus. The Canadian economy? Well, it has its human stimulus. The biggest population increase in six decades, driven by international migration, is one reason the Bank of Canada has been able to match the Federal Reserve hike-for-hike since June 2017 -- making the two easily the most hawkish central banks in the Group of Seven. In its latest increase Wednesday, the Ottawa-based central bank highlighted how the surge has bolstered consumption and housing activity.
“Labor income is being boosted by the larger population,” the Bank of Canada said in a report Wednesday that accompanied its decision to increase borrowing costs for a third time this year, keeping pace with the Fed’s three moves.

Under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canada’s population has jumped by 1.4 percent over the past year, double the U.S. pace, driven by a surge in non-permanent residents like students and higher immigration levels. “We’ve called it the ‘human stimulus,’” Brett House, deputy chief economist at the Bank of Nova Scotia, said in a phone interview.
The larger point is that monetary stimulus--like Trump's tax cuts--boosts growth mostly in the short run. Say, two to three years in a significant way at most. How about human stimulus? In contrast, that should last closer to the working yeaers of the person brought into the country to stay for good. That these are young, well-educated folks helps too:
Stefane Marion, chief economist at National Bank of Canada, said it’s not just the sheer number of people entering Canada, but also the quality of immigrants the country has been able to attract: younger, more educated people who help drive household formation and contribute to the economy’s resiliency.

“Of all the OECD economies, Canada has the most aggressive immigration policy that brings in work-ready immigrants,’’ he said. “We didn’t get fiscal stimulus on the same scale, but we’re still benefiting from the multiplier effect of the type of people we’re able to get from overseas.’’
I am more sanguine on the future of Canada than that of the United States. Unsustainable budget deficits don't strike me as a long-term growth strategy, while bringing in young folks who can get the job done and enliven the economy in the process can.

Trade War Worries? Leave China for Southeast Asia

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 10/22/2018 06:24:00 PM
"Made in China" gives way to "Made in Southeast Asia"?
The "balloon effect" is a demonstration of the phenomenon of displacement. Say you push down on manufactured exports emanating from China. Because demand for these goods still exists Stateside and in other destinations, other parts will inflate with the targeted activity. And so it is with American efforts to punish Chinese transgressors over supposedly unfair trade. Instead of these trades stopping altogether--or production moving back Stateside as Trump fantasizes--the end result is production moving to even lower-cost destinations elsewhere in Asia.

Among the beneficiaries of the trade war as a result of this "balloon effect" are countries of Southeast Asia that aren't hit with tariffs on PRC-made products, according to Bloomberg:
Southeast Asia is seeing a boom in foreign direct investment as the intensifying trade war between the US and China prompts companies to shift production to the region. Vietnam saw manufacturing inflows jump 18% in the first nine months of 2018, driven by investments including a $1.2 billion polypropylene production project by South Korea’s Hyosung Corp, according to a Maybank Kim Eng Research Pte note on Monday.
Supposedly, even the Philippines and its drug warrior of a president are benefiting:
Vietnam saw manufacturing inflows jump 18% in the first nine months of 2018, driven by investments including a $1.2 billion polypropylene production project by South Korea’s Hyosung Corp, according to a Maybank Kim Eng Research Pte note on Monday. In January through July, Thailand’s net FDI rose 53% from a year earlier to $7.6 billion, with manufacturing inflows surging almost five times, according to central bank data.

In the Philippines, net FDI into manufacturing surged to $861 million in the same period from $144 million a year earlier. “The US-China trade war may be attracting more firms to set up in Asean to circumvent the tariffs,” Maybank economists Chua Hak Bin and Lee Ju Ye said in the note. “Sectors such as consumer products, industrial, technology & telecom hardware, automotive and chemicals have indicated interest in Southeast Asia.”
While the Chinese may lose out here on the face of it, the status quo is largely the same for importers of these Asian-made goods insofar as multinationals are making the same things in the wider Asian region. Meanwhile, Southeast Asian countries stand to benefit indirectly from the trade war. I suppose China wanting to move up the value-added ladder means giving up these lower-value-added activities to others. Hence, American trade belligerence arguably just sped this inevitable process.

California Apart, the US Economy is Pretty Blah

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 10/17/2018 06:10:00 PM
I was watching Bloomberg TV when they brought on one of their journalists to expound on the condition of the American economy. If you were to listen to Trump, the reason why the United States economy is doing better is because of ridding of all sorts of regulations, permitting unlimited pollution, detaching from the rest of the world via trade wars, deporting en masse people willing to work, embracing Stone Age technologies like coal, etc. That is, making America great again is a distinctly backward-looking activity from Trump's point of view.

Actually, the fact of the matter is this: If you separate supremely performing, high-technology, forward-looking California from the rest of the United States, the latter's economic performance is rather mediocre. The Golden State, which Trump hates with a passion (a sentiment California returns back), is buoying the rest of the US:
Trump attributes the prosperity of the U.S. economy during his 17 months as president to his evisceration of environmental regulations and other consumer protections, abandoning the Paris climate accord, aggressively deporting undocumented immigrants, prohibiting people from certain nations (mostly majority Muslim) from emigrating to the U.S., prosecuting sanctuary cities for protecting immigrants, cutting taxes most for corporations and the rich, and appointing a Supreme Court justice who just wrote the 5-4 decision limiting the rights of tens of millions of workers.
Evergreen California Governor Jerry Brown has taken the opposite tack to nearly everything Trump does. So, is California the American laggard? On the contrary, it's doing better than every other state:
Jerry Brown, California's longest-serving governor, takes the opposite approach, and his state thrives. California is the global leader among governments committed to safeguarding the planet from climate change. Corporate California's revenues from clean energy companies dwarf those of the other 49 states or any country. The state's auto emissions law, now contested by the Trump administration, is the nation's most stringent. The legislature voted to become a sanctuary state, preventing police from participating in federal enforcement or asking people about their immigration status. The same assembly also made California the first state to declare a $15-an-hour minimum wage and to require solar panels on new homes. Its citizens approved Proposition 30, temporarily raising personal income and sales taxes to fund education.
The implications are clear. Wouldn't gains be more evenly distributed Stateside if other states acted like California? By not following Trump, maybe everyone else in the US would be doing better too. It's not my place to tell Americans what to do, but weighing the votes of Trump-suopprting primitives instead of those actually driving progress does not seem to be the way forward:
Remove California from the job market and U.S. employment rose only 2.62 percent, a little better than Japan's 2.48 percent and less than Austria's 2.82 percent. The 19 countries that use the euro showed an increase of 2.41 percent. Subtract California's big and small companies from the rest of the nation's and something similar happens. During the same 22-month period, the market capitalization of the companies in the Russell 3000 Index of large, medium and small companies increased at an average rate of 46 percent. California's Russell 3000 companies appreciated 64 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg...  
What do California and Illinois have in common aside from voting decisively against Trump? Their companies are committed to global trade. Among companies reporting sales in the Russell 3000, California firms received at least 48 percent and as much as 66 percent of revenues from their exports (accounting for disparities in corporate reporting) while Illinois-based companies got between 44 percent and 53 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
For reasons inherent in their political (electoral) system, the danger is that the Trump-voting primitives drag down California instead of California being allowed to pull up the rest of the laggards. Here California is showing an example of forward thinking...and the Trumpian cave-dwellers not only ignore it but try to bring it down to their level of barbarism.

10/18 UPDATE: Thinking about it more, on the balance, Trump's policies have likely hurt than help the United States. If the country is doing reasonably well, look at parts of it that are faring the best--like California. It's doing so despite rather than because of what Trump is doing.

World Trade War: Good for the Enviroment?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 10/08/2018 06:27:00 PM
Is Trump's trade war going to save the Earth? It depends...
It's generally recognized that carbon emissions dropped off during the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-09, making tanking the world economy "good for the environment." With some predicting even direr outcomes than the aftermath of the "beggar-thy-neighbor" 1930s as the United States has commenced slapping tariffs on its trade partners, who are retaliating in return, there is no telling how much worse things can get if this back-and-forth process continues unabated. Who knows? The end result could be a reduction in global economic activity even greater in percentage terms than what transpired during the global financial crisis.

In the meantime, though, the Sierra Club is warning that Trump's actions against the PRC are causing dislocations in environmentally beneficial forms of trade on the negative side of the ledger:

Plastic and cardboard recycling: For some time, China has been tightening up it standards on what raw material it will accept from the United States for recycling. The trade war has exacerbated this situation, with China planning to levy a 25 percent charge on corrugated cardboard, paper, scrap plastic, and other materials...

E-bikes: On August 23, the United States started charging 25 percent tariffs on electric bicycles and cycling computers from China. These include e-models from popular brands like Trek, Giant, and Pedego. The move could significantly slow the otherwise rapidly growing e-bike market that has been growing by double-digit numbers in recent years...

Teslas in China: The only U.S.-made electric vehicle sold in China is the Tesla, and it just got a lot more expensive for consumers there to buy. The price of a Model S in China just went up by 20 percent...

Water pollution: An unexpected environmental effect of a drop in soybean production [because of lost sales to China], according to a study by the Northeast Midwest Institute, could be increased nitrate pollution of drinking water sources. Nitrates enter the soil primarily as a result of fertilizers used on corn, but many farmers cycle it by also planting soybeans, which absorb the nitrates. No soybeans to absorb the nitrates, though, means more nitrate runoff into rivers and streams...

Expensive solar panels: In January, even before the trade war really got going, the Trump administration imposed a 30 percent tariff on Chinese solar panels. That was followed in June by an additional 25 percent levy. The effect has not been enormous, given that many U.S. solar installers saw the writing on the wall and stockpiled cheap units in advance of the trade spat...
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It's not a fun thought, but is a worldwide economic slowdown even worse than the global financial crisis what we should hope in an age of Trump when the United States doesn't even acknowledge the existence of man-made climate change?

Sinopec's Shame is Caving In to Trump on Iran

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 10/03/2018 08:36:00 PM
Hey Sinopec, maybe your new slogan should be "Trump Threatens, Cower in Fear."
I almost forgot about this one: Sometime ago, I lauded China for stating that it would not stop buying crude oil from Iran despite the Trump administration's re-imposition of sanctions. These come despite Iran living up to its commitments under the Obama-era agreement JCPOA (which Trump unilaterally pulled the United States out of). Apparently, I had spoken too soon. Fast-forward a couple of months and, lo and behold, China's state-owned energy giant Sinopec has cut back on its Iran purchases by half ahead of a forthcoming tightening of American sanctions:
China’s Sinopec Corp is halving loadings of crude oil from Iran this month, as the state refiner comes under intense pressure from Washington to comply with a U.S. ban on Iranian oil from November, said people with knowledge of the matter.

The sources did not specify volumes, but based on the prevailing supply contract between the top Chinese refiner and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), its loadings would be reduced to about 130,000 barrels per day (bpd).
Where did I go wrong in thinking that Beijing would live up to its word by not constraining its state-owned firm from purchasing from Iran? As it turns out, while Sinopec certainly does not conduct much energy-related trade with the United States, its shares are traded as an American depositary receipt (ADR) Stateside. That is, if it does not want to curtail this US-based capital-raising source, then it has to comply with American laws:
This would be 20 percent of China’s average daily imports from Iran in 2017, dealing a blow to Tehran, which has counted its top oil client to maintain imports while European and other Asian buyers wind down purchases to avoid U.S. sanctions.

 The cut marks Sinopec’s deepest reduction in years as the Hong Kong and New York-listed state oil company faces direct pressure from a U.S administration determined to choke off the flow of petrodollars to the Islamic Republic.sin
It makes me wonder: If China's bluster about standing up to American bullying rings hollows on importing Iranian oil, will it also be the case with Trump imposing tariffs on more and more Chinese exports? Sinopec was rather lame; will Chinese leadership also be chicken out when threatened with ever-growing lists of goods hit with import taxes?

Trump's Plan to Supersize US Trade Deficit, Pt. II

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 9/27/2018 05:51:00 PM
Up, up and away: the incredible exploding US trade deficit.
Contrary to his rhetoric, I noted some posts ago that Trump is actually doing all he can to widen the US trade deficit. The last GDP report for the second quarter for 2018 was artificially boosted by Americans trying to beat the imposition of tariffs on goods imported by China. However, we have passed that point. Now that tariffs are already beginning to be imposed, American importers no longer have the impetus to "beat" some tariff imposition deadline. Voila, today's trade deficit that was far larger than anticipated $-75.8B instead of $-70.8B--though humbly not be me.

So, what will drive the United States' trade balance in the age of trade war are likely two: First, American exports are being hit abroad by other countries' retaliatory tariffs on American goods. This is particularly the case with soybeans and other agricultural exports now being taxed more by the Chinese. Second, American imports continue to climb, demonstrating the ineffectiveness of tariffs in "reducing" trade deficits when domestic saving shortfalls are not addressed. If not China, then there are several other countries willing and able to supply America's fix of imported goods since the United States still needs to plug its current account deficit somehow.
The merchandise-trade deficit unexpectedly grew in August to $75.8 billion, the widest in six months, as exports of food, industrial supplies and autos declined, Commerce Department data showed Thursday. 

While analysts said the trade deficit partly reflected an expected drop in soybean exports following a second-quarter surge ahead of Chinese-imposed tariffs [...], the numbers illustrate how the trade war is spurring volatility in the data. In addition, the widening deficit runs contrary to Trump’s aim of a narrower gap and underscores the challenges of achieving that goal amid strong domestic demand -- which tends to boost imports -- and retaliatory tariffs from abroad.

“The data are grim,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics Ltd., said in a note, referring to the August goods trade gap. “The administration’s narrative, that the second-quarter drop in the deficit was a result of their trade policies, has now fallen apart, as it was always likely to do.”
The bottom line is this: the Q2 GDP growth figure was artifactual, boosted as it was by American buyers stocking up on China-made goods ahead of tariffs being applied. Now that that tomfoolery is done with, we are beginning to see what the trade war-era pattern will be like. The trade deficit will likely increase, not decrease, since the United States domestic saving shortfall still keeps growing (via Trump's tax cuts). That the US dollar is gaining strength only makes the trade deficit worse as it makes imports more attractive to Americans and exports less attractive to the United States' trading partners. 

Trade War Winner: PRC Leather Goods Counterfeiters

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 9/20/2018 03:51:00 PM
Trump [hearts] fakeries: of trade war and the rising attractiveness of counterfeits.
The folks over at the South China Morning Post have a long list of established and recognized Asian companies either benefiting or losing out from the escalating US-China trade war. However, it's not just these big names who we should consider when it comes to regional winners and losers from Trump's trade machinations. The Washington Post notes that, actually, PRC counterfeiters may stand to benefit from the ongoing tiff.

How might this be so? Those trading in legitimate leather goods will invariably register with US customs authorities and be hit by Trump's forthcoming 10% tariffs. On the other hand, the fakers will continue to try to sneak in their goods Stateside, further widening their price advantage over legitimate items:
Knockoffs of famous brands - Coach, Kate Spade and others - are mostly made in China and arrive at US shores through clandestine channels built to dodge authorities. The authentic purses and their components, also made in China, are shipped through official routes and would face Trump's proposed new duties of 10 per cent effective next Monday.

This all stacks up in favour of the counterfeit labels at every step of their illicit journey: from factory floors in China to street vendors in cities worldwide.
It's not that purveyors of genuine articles don't understand what's likely to happen; it's that Trump is too obstinate to care. End result? A possible windfall for counterfeiters;
The next wave of tariffs target another US$200 billion in Chinese imports, including handbags, leather and silk. This prospect alarms both American fashion designers and global authorities, because US firms already lose billions each year to counterfeiters. Officials also link knockoff sales to organised crime groups that exploit child labour.

"A tariff on a genuine bag is a subsidy for a fake," said Susan Scafidi, a New York fashion lawyer focused on intellectual property.

The global counterfeit trade for all items, from purses to electronics to software, is worth US$461 billion, according to the latest estimate by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. That is more than the global drug trade. And more than 85 per cent of the handbag replicas originate in mainland China and Hong Kong. A fifth of counterfeit busts worldwide involve American brands.
The end result is that trading in shady enterprises is made more attractive relative to earning an honest living. But then again, isn't that Trump's life story in a nutshell?

Yakety-Yak: Mnunchin the Useless Trade Negotiatior

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 9/14/2018 04:41:00 PM
He only acts like the money man when he's actually very impotent in talking with the Chinese about trade wars.
Imagine having a boss who contradicts nearly everything you do that's of importance. Apparently, that's what's happening with White House senior officials in the Trump administration. Just when they think they've got a handle on things, their boss then contradicts them, setting back whatever they've been working on by days, weeks or months.

In this vein, have some sympathy for one Steven Mnuchin. Supposedly the Treasury secretary, whatever that person does (if anything) in the age of Trump, he's been thwarted at nearly turn in trying to fend off Trump's protectionist instincts. After (rather gullible) markets rallied on the back of news that the US would negotiate with China prior to another $200B of PRC imports being taxed, Trump "corrected" Mnuchin once more:
The day after financial markets around the world cheered the apparent good news that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was inviting his Chinese counterparts to sit down for further high-level negotiations, President Donald Trump undermined that very idea. “We are under no pressure to make a deal with China, they are under pressure to make a deal with us,” Trump said on Twitter on Thursday. “Our markets are surging, theirs are collapsing. We will soon be taking in Billions in Tariffs & making products at home. If we meet, we meet?”
The upshot of all this is that whomever these administration lackeys Trump sends out, their counterparts have little faith in since Trump would just contradict his own people anyway. Ditto for Mnuchin in the upcoming negotiations which are unlikely to yield any tangible positive results:
The move marked just the latest instance of Trump undercutting one of his senior China deal-makers in public and illustrates why Beijing has become increasingly frustrated with its interactions with the U.S. administration. It also comes as Trump has repeatedly signaled his desire to continue raising pressure on Beijing and is considering the details of new tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports or even more.
So even if Mnuchin or even Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross are regarded as (somewhat) more pleasant people to talk to than Trump, it doesn't matter anyway because whatever the Chinese think they've agreed to will not be honored by Trump. That is, they are lame emissaries who do not have Trump's ear:
After last year’s Mar-a-Lago summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was given the task of negotiating a 100-day deal with China intended to be the first building block in a bigger deal.

Ross and his team, however, were quickly criticized for being too obsequious to the Chinese, especially after he hailed a reheated series of commitments by Beijing as a "Herculean" victory for the president. Since then, the commitments Ross has brought home to Trump have repeatedly been rejected by the president.

Likewise, just days after hosting Liu He, Xi’s top economic emissary, in the Oval Office in May, Trump made a very public U-turn by declaring that he would be proceeding with tariffs despite Mnuchin’s declaration that the trade war was “on hold.” The result has left Mnuchin discredited with Beijing as an interlocutor, according to people who have met with senior Chinese officials in recent weeks.
If Trump sends these same neutered folks out to meet the Chinese to discuss tamping down the trade war over and over, it really makes sense to believe nothing will happen. It's the equivalent of negotiating in bad faith since you know the outcome already--Trump will say "no deal." The trade war's proportions will just continue to grow and grow.