President Donald Trump was clearly surprised Monday — and asked “why?” — when Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said U.S. officials asked members of China’s trade delegation to cancel a scheduled farm tour in the United States last week.
American stock market indices plunged Friday on the news of the cancellation of a planned visit with farmers in Bozeman, Montana, and Omaha, Nebraska, after the Chinese delegation concluded trade talks in Washington.
Trump was asked Monday how the cancellation could affect trade talks with China. The question came during a bilateral meeting at the United Nations between Trump, other administration officials, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
“Well, they’re starting to buy a lot of our ag product,” Trump said. “But Steven, could you maybe,” the president said, referring to Mnuchin.
Mnuchin then said, “That was actually at our request they delayed that.”
“So, we didn’t want there to be any confusion. They have started buying agriculture,” the Treasury chief continued. “They’re going to reschedule that at a different time. The timing didn’t work. But that was — that was purely at our request.”
Trump then asked Mnuchin, “Why was that our request, just out of curiosity?”
The president punctuated that question with a chuckle that seemed to indicate displeasure — or unease — more than humor.
Mnuchin started to answer, “We didn’t want confusion around the trade issues.”
Trump quickly interjected, “Yeah, but I want them to buy farm products.”