The US trade war with China has been filled with broken promises and over-the-top exultation. But when you look at the flow of trade, the volumes of the containers, cargo and tankers have been telling a different story.

Trade flows should be considered the tea leaves foreshadowing the outcome of the trade-war negotiations.

Lori Ann LaRocco is senior editor of guests at CNBC Photo: Lori Ann LaRocco