Without even applying the tariffs, Chinese orders of USA soybeans have virtually stopped in the past few months, a well-timed blow to Mr. Trump and the Republicans fighting to win coming elections in those states. The bipartisan criticism of the administration over the China trade issue has blown away the illusion that Trump's bellicose economic and trade agenda is the outcome of the proclivities of the present occupant of the White House and that "normality" would return were he to depart.
The negotiations to rewrite the 24-year-old NAFTA, meanwhile, have bogged down, in part over the United States' insistence on steps that would encourage automakers to move production to the United States from Mexico.
Trump's assault on the rules-based order extends also - and ominously - to trade.
"There was a consensus on taking effective measures to substantially reduce the United States trade deficit in goods with China", the statement said.
The probe comes as Trump courts voters in the US industrial heartland ahead of mid-term elections later this year, and opens a new front in his "America First" trade agenda aimed at clawing back manufacturing jobs lost to overseas competitors.
Earlier Thursday, Trump had blamed the USA neighbors to the north and south for being "difficult" in talks to renegotiate the pact.
"Doesn't make sense to have the Treasury secretary negotiating trade policy - that's the USTR's job", former Nucor chief executive Dan DiMicco said in a phone interview on Tuesday.
In retaliation, the Chinese put out a tariff list targeting a range of USA exports and key US soybean-producing states, such as Indiana, Ohio and MI - all battle grounds for both the midterm elections this year and presidential election in 2020.
Trade tensions between the US and China, in particular, have shaken financial markets and alarmed business executives.
It's not as though the administration has not noticed all these developments.
Then, on Wednesday, the Pentagon pulled an invite to China to take part in a huge global naval exercise after it landed a bomber on a disputed island in the South China Sea and deployed missile launchers, after previously undertaking not to militarize the area.
Trump campaigned in 2016 on a pledge to get tough on China and other U.S. trading partners.
It may be still early days in the US-China trade conflict.
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"I'm a firm believer that China will continue ... to take what they committed from Brazil - and it will be tough to really boost US soybean exports over the short term", said Terry Reilly, senior commodity analyst for Futures International in Chicago.
"We will closely monitor the situation under the USA probe and fully evaluate the possible impact and resolutely defend our own legitimate interests".
But the reception to a trade deal reached with China over the weekend to avert a looming tariff battle suggests there is disquiet in Washington about ground being lost.
The stock markets reacted further to the president's latest comments, with the Dow Jones dropping 120 points in early trading.
In the dispute with US allies over tariffs on steel and aluminum that Trump imposed in March, the administration has argued that a reliance on imported metals posed a threat to USA national security.
Eric Schweitzer said in a statement Thursday: "We should nearly regard this as a provocation". "They played us again", he said.
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was expected to visit China next week to help finalize an agreement.
But even the President on Wednesday appeared to admit that it would fall short of expectations.
In another missive referring to trade talks with China, he said that, while the discussions were proceeding nicely, "in the end we will probably have to use a different structure". Marco Rubio of Florida.
The Journal, citing sources in the auto industry, said U.S. moves to retaliate likely would face significant opposition from trading partners and auto dealers that sell imports.
Trump said he wanted this the deal to be a great deal for both the United States as well as China. While Trump said on Twitter that China had agreed to purchase "MASSIVE" amounts of American farm goods to reduce its yawning trade surplus with the United States, the two sides didn't agree on a specific dollar figure.
Another aspect of US-China relations that Beijing is playing to its advantage is Trump's view that relations with other countries are directly reflected in the strength of his personal connections with their leaders.
Trump has frequently lambasted China's high import duties on foreign cars. He likes me. I like him.