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President Donald Trump ripped into China in a series of tweets Tuesday just as the two sides are set to resume stalled negotiations toward a much-anticipated trade agreement.
The president claimed that China is not buying more U.S. agricultural products as it promised to do and may be slow-walking the talks as it awaits the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
"China is doing very badly, worst year in 27 - was supposed to start buying our agricultural product now - no signs that they are doing so. That is the problem with China, they just don't come through," Trump wrote.
The criticism comes as an entourage led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are in Shanghai to meet with their Chinese counterparts. While U.S. officials have tamped down expectations for a major deal this week, there is hope that at least some progress can be made in the tit-for-tat tariff battle that began more than a year ago.
The stock market struggled at the open in the wake of Trump's trade comments, with the Dow industrials off by about 100 points in early trading.
Trump's tweets expressed skepticism, with the president charging that China can't be trusted. He alleged that China may be awaiting next year's election results in anticipating that someone like "Sleepy Joe," his nickname for former Vice President Joseph Biden, might prevail.
Despite the president's allegations, China insists it has bought U.S. agricultural products.
In a report Sunday, the state-run media agency Xinhua said millions of tons of U.S. soybeans have been shipped to China since July 19. The media agency added that companies are looking for soybeans, cotton, pork and sorghum. Soybeans have been a particularly vital issue between the two sides, and U.S. exports did increase by $727 million in May and are up 7% year to date over 2018.
That comes, though, as the trade gap between the two nations widens.
In May, U.S. exports to China actually rose to $9.1 billion, but imports jumped to $39.3 billion, bringing this year's deficit to $137.1 billion. That total actually is $15 billion less than through the same period in 2018, which saw a $419.5 billion U.S.-China trade deficit.