Just in the past week, American trading partners have grappled with a new wave of aggressive moves. On Thursday, in the decision that prompted Mr. Trudeau’s tweet, the Trump administration said it would not exempt Canada, Mexico or the European Union from its new steel and aluminum tariffs, after postponing the move twice.
The Trump administration has also said it would move ahead with tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese-made goods. A week before, a senior official had suggested the tariffs would be suspended. American officials also walked back the possibility that Mr. Trump would lift crippling trade limits placed on ZTE, a Chinese telecommunications company, for violating American trade restrictions on North Korea and Iran.
Talks between the two countries in Beijing over the weekend, which were led by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, ended in an impasse. The Chinese refused to commit to buying more American goods, without the United States agreeing to back away from imposing further tariffs on Chinese exports.
“If the United States introduces trade measures, including an increase of tariffs, all the economic and trade outcomes negotiated by the two parties will not take effect,” China said in a statement.
Foreign negotiators are now seeking friendly faces within the White House in hopes that those people’s arguments end up carrying the day.
Chinese officials have aggressively tried to woo Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, and Mr. Ross, say people familiar with the Chinese negotiating position, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are sensitive. Both men have extensive business and Wall Street backgrounds, and Chinese officials believe they would be receptive to arguments that China’s big trade surplus with the United States stems largely from economic factors rather than unfair trade practices.