China-US Trade War: Osaka G20 Déjà Vu?

By Dr. Jack Rasmus

This past weekend, June 29, Trump and China president, Xi, met again at the G20 in Japan in the midst of an escalating trade war. Has anything changed? Or is it all just a repeat of the previous G20 Buenos Aires meeting between the two last December 2018?

US neocon trade negotiators (Lighthizer, Navarro) had scuttled a first pending trade deal back in May 2018.  Thereafter China had refused for months to meet with Trump throughout the summer and fall of 2018. Trump and Xi finally met again at the G20 in Buenos Aires December 2, 2018. The outcome was the typical Trump happy talk and platitudes about how he and Xi had such a great relationship; how the two countries trade teams would now work toward an agreement; and how Trump in the interim would not impose another hike in existing tariffs on China, scheduled for January 2019.  Stock markets began to recover, after their swoon of late 2018, expecting a trade deal while the US central bank, the Fed, simultaneously capitulated to Trump demands to stop raising US interest rates.

The two countries’ trade teams resumed negotiations in February 2019 and it seemed were about to reach an agreement once again. But, once again, as in May 2018, the negotiations broke down a second time, last month, May 2019—once again scuttled a second time by the US neocons and anti-China hardliners who had retained control of the trade negotiations.

In the aftermath of the Japan G20 meeting just concluded, it now looks like a similar staged show for Trump’s political base is once again on the agenda.  Once more, the same ‘spin is in’: i.e. Trump declares publicly he has such a great relationship with Xi. There’s a great deal now pending between the two countries on trade. US and China trade teams will now begin again to thrash out the details on the remaining 10% or so of US-China trade differences. In the interim, once again, Trump announces he will withhold imposing tariffs (this time on an additional $325 billion of China imports to the US).  In other words, coming out of the latest G20 it’s almost an exact déjà vu all over again on June 29, 2019, as it was at last December 2018’s G20 meeting between Trump and Xi in Buenos Aires.

So what’s happened in the interim, between the G20 meetings over the past seven months? And how is it similar to the first round of US-China negotiations that were held April-May 2018?

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About the Author

Dr. Jack Rasmus is author of the forthcoming book, ‘The Scourge of Neoliberalism: US Policy from Reagan to Trump, Clarity Press, September 2019; and the recently published Alexander Hamilton and the Origins of the Fed’, Lexington books, March 2019. He blogs at and his website is . Dr. Rasmus tweets at @drjackrasmus and hosts the Alternative Visions radio show on the Progressive Radio Network.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of All China Review.