Donald Trump is scheduled to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G-20 summit on Saturday in Buenos Aires, and a reporter asked the American president how he's preparing for the talks in the midst of an escalating trade dispute.
"I'm very prepared," the famously unprepared president declared. "I've been preparing for it all my life. You know, it's not like, 'Oh, gee, I'm going to sit down and study.' I know every ingredient. I know every stat. I know it better than anybody knows it.... It's not a question of preparing."
One starts to get the impression that Trump isn't a homework kind of guy.
Regardless, the New York Times reports that the Republican has begun rethinking his negotiating position.
President Trump is projecting a steely facade as he prepares for a critical meeting on trade this weekend with President Xi Jinping of China. But behind his tough talk and threats of higher tariffs is a creeping anxiety about the costs of a prolonged trade war on the financial markets and the broader economy.
That could set the stage for a truce between the United States and China, several American officials said, in the form of an agreement that would delay new tariffs for several months while the world's two largest economies try to work out the issues dividing them.
That would almost certainly be a positive development for all involved, though working out "the issues dividing them" is tougher than it sounds -- in part because there's no meaningful agreement about what those issues are.
In an interview this week with the Wall Street Journal, Trump was asked what, specifically, he'd like to see Beijing do. The American president said, over and over again, that he wants a "fair deal," but when pressed to explain what that might look like, Trump said effectively nothing.
The problem is not limited to the president. Annie Lowery recently wrote for The Atlantic that Chinese trade negotiators are "confused" by the Trump administration and its position: "American officials raise issues only to later drop them. They contradict one another. The ideological warfare within the White House, as well as the lack of experience on the international economic team, has left China and others unsure of U.S. policy, or even its goals."