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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Trump 'talks' appear dead on China trade, Iran, and roads and bridges

Evidence piled up this week of President Donald Trump's failure so far to reach "the best deals" for America.

For now, he doesn't seem to be negotiating much of anything with anyone.

Negotiation usually means someone makes a proposal, the other side responds, and discussions progress — not at cross-purposes but toward common ground that can produce an agreement.

On Wednesday Trump ditched talks with congressional leaders on a shapeless $2 trillion infrastructure bill that, in his third year, looks even more out of reach than when he took office.

Trump, of course, blames Democrats who might impeach him. But Republicans who run the Senate continue to show little or no interest. In theory, they could help bridge the House and the president's office if Trump really considered action a priority.

Simultaneous House investigations into his practices seem to be an excuse for making no effort to even prod his rivals to discuss the promised program. 

During the two years the GOP controlled both houses, Trump never appeared close to making the horse trades or maneuvers necessary to fund and build his border wall. No consensus developed around its size, shape, cost or necessity.

So the president invoked emergency powers after forcing a record shutdown of government agencies.

Only a portion of wall money, totaling $1.57 billion, cleared the Congress. This week, Bloomberg News reported that U.S. Customs and Border Protection so far has put up just 1.7 miles of fencing with the money. This came out in federal court, where 20 states and the Sierra club are suing to keep Trump from tapping funds not approved by Congress.

For a while, Trump's trade team seemed to make headway in talks with China, amid escalating tariffs between the economic giants. President Xi Jinping pulled back, however, from earlier indications he'd protect intellectual property, encourage foreign investment and buy more from the U.S.

On May 8, Trump said: “You see the tariffs we’re doing? Because they broke the deal. They broke the deal.”

They can’t do that, so they’ll be paying.”

He did not explain exactly how Beijing "broke" the terms of what was never a final deal. Even if he was merely being careless with language, Trump showed no sign of trying to revive the talks. If the policy is to keep the tariffs, for the United States' benefit, that's one choice. But it sure doesn't show "the art of the deal."

Around the edges Trump’s savvy trade team has reached lesser deals, such as in Europe,  to lift restrictions on some U.S. exports. They’ve agreed to limited NAFTA changes, but Trump hasn’t negotiated the required  approval by Congress.

Trump has talked about talks with Iran, with tensions escalating. Sanctions there have been increased. But Iranian President Hassan Rouhani this week called the current situation "not suitable" for diplomacy.

For better or worse, it's no deal there, either.

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