These criticisms are linked to Trump's decision to search for some way of penalising the Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE other than the Commerce Department's decision to ban the sales of USA components to the firm, effectively putting it out of business.
Some White House officials say the retreat on tariffs is a result of discord on Trump's economic team. This is less than the 2.5 per cent the United States demanded but is viewed as moving in a positive direction.
Trump's assault on the rules-based order extends also - and ominously - to trade.
Ideally, having chosen to de-escalate his fights with trade partners, Trump would press for changes in smarter and more productive ways.
Critics fear other countries will retaliate with trade sanctions of their own and question whether the move would ever be effective given the lengthy review required and legal challenges ahead.
Trump's uncertainty is understandable - he's facing competing pressures from his allies to both clamp down on unfair Chinese business practices and spare USA farmers from a damaging trade war with China.
Growing trade tensions over cars and auto parts, particularly with China, could raise risks for US companies expanding their presence in the country, signs of which are already emerging.
It's not as though the administration has not noticed all these developments. But this has been vigorously opposed by the military and national security establishment.
Then, on Wednesday, the Pentagon pulled an invite to China to take part in a huge worldwide 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. One of the areas in which the American people were promised a dazzling display of the maestro in action was on trade with China, a situation the president has likened, with some regularity, to the U.S. being "raped".
Trump campaigned in 2016 on a pledge to get tough on China and other United States trading partners.
Trends in US-China relations that seem to favor Beijing have been in evidence in recent days.
China would not be able to reach this target by completely new imports but would need to substitute imports from other parts of the world, including the European Union, Japan and Korea, with U.S. imports, said Alicia Garcia-Herrero, Chief Economist for the Asia Pacific at Natixis, a French corporate and investment bank. But we were the ones that closed it. Now, he's suggesting that deal will need an extensive rework to get done at all.
If there is more agricultural buying from China, it could benefit not only soybeans but other USA agricultural commodities and be good news for Republicans as midterm elections approach. The administration says China has agreed to a framework of a deal that includes increased sales of U.S. farm products to China by 35 to 40 percent.
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"We hope the dismissal of these cases reflects a lessening of trade tensions as our leaders continue to dialogue", National Sorghum Producers Chairman Don Bloss said in a statement. "They played us again", he said.
But even the President on Wednesday appeared to admit that it would fall short of expectations. Marco Rubio of Florida. Mnuchin still led the talks, but reports surfaced that Navarro and Kudlow were excluded from some of the meetings. So if the administration retreats, fine-especially if it learns the lessons at hand: In leveling the playing field for worldwide trade and investment, cooperation and mutual interest get you a lot further than threats and bluster ever could.
"China opposes the abuse of national security clauses, which will seriously damage multilateral trade systems and disrupt normal worldwide trade order", Gao Feng, spokesman at the Ministry of Commerce, said at a regular news briefing on Thursday which focused largely on whether Beijing and Washington are making any progress in their growing trade dispute. Last month, China imposed hefty dumping duties of 179 percent on imports of the grain, which tends to be a cheaper feed alternative to corn.
"I have a great relationship with President Xi". He likes me. I like him.
But Trump sounded an optimistic note Wednesday.
The President's supporters often point to that relationship as being responsible for China signing up to the most punitive sanctions yet imposed on North Korea, which some experts credit for helping to bring Kim to the table.
Trump has also found himself under attack for retreating from penalties his administration announced against a large Chinese telecommunications company, ZTE, for violating United States sanctions against Iran and North Korea.
Trump has been searching for an alternative after Chinese President Xi Jinping indicated that action to restore ZTE's capacity to operate must be part of a broader trade agreement with the US.
The President defended himself on Wednesday, pointing out that it was his administration that "closed" ZTE in the first place, after he was accused of giving away considerable U.S. leverage of the firm for very little in return.
Trump's about-face on ZTE adds to his allies' concerns.
He argued that Trump's style was "all about creating drama and attention and pressure and then cutting some kind of deal".
The White House disputes the idea that Trump has gone soft on China and is certain to bill the trade deal, when it is confirmed, as a significant step, however it is portrayed by experts.