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U.S.-China trade talks resume, with mini concessions being offered

The indication of some good news comes after futures markets were whipsawed overnight amid reports that the Chinese delegation would cut its trip short. But on Thursday, President Donald Trump said he would meet with Liu on Friday after talks wrap up with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The announcement…

The indication of some good news comes after futures markets were whipsawed overnight amid reports that the Chinese delegation would cut its trip short.

But on Thursday, President Donald Trump said he would meet with Liu on Friday after talks wrap up with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The announcement of the meeting with Trump appears to confirm that Liu will be staying through the week.

“Big day of negotiations with China,” Trump posted on Twitter. “They want to make a deal, but do I? I meet with the Vice Premier tomorrow at The White House.”

Stocks moved higher on Thursday after the announcement amid hopes that it could indicate the president might agree to some sort of mini deal. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped more than 220 points by midday, while the S.&P. 500 climbed roughly 26 points, or almost 1 percent.

U.S. businesses are hoping the 13th round of trade talks this week will lead to a cooling off in the escalating tariffs and lay the groundwork for for tackling more challenging issues. Both businesses and administration officials complain that Chinese policies force U.S. companies to hand over valuable technology, restrict data transfers, and provide subsidies and other advantages to Chinese firms.

“The Chinese understand that waiting is not an option, waiting out the president’s term is not an option,” Brilliant said.

For months, China has not only imposed steep tariffs on U.S. goods but also cut off purchases of many agricultural products. But in a gesture of good will, China has ramped up in recent weeks purchases of U.S. farm goods like soybeans and pork that were hit hard by Chinese retaliation. Increasing sales of farm goods have one of Trump’s personal demands in meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Liu told Brilliant and other officials before the talks that China has come to the negotiations this week with “great sincerity” and is willing to make serious exchanges, according to Chinese state broadcaster China Global Television Network.

On Oct. 15, Trump is scheduled to increase a duties on $250 billion worth of goods from to 30 percent, from 25 percent. More significant, the U.S. will slap a 15 percent tariff on Dec. 15 on almost all remaining Chinese imports including consumer goods like laptops, smartphone, footwear and clothing.

In the latest talks, China is offering to increase U.S. access to its financial services and automobile markets. It has also said it would bolster intellectual property, or IP, protections.

“What we’re hearing mostly is around what I call the the 20th century I.P. protections,” said Brilliant, indicating that China is only willing to address outdated issues related to copyrights and trademarks.

Those offers, in which China has its own self-interests, don’t include measures that go to the heart of U.S. complaints over technology transfer and data protection that led to the Trump administration’s tariff actions, he said.

Brilliant also suggested the two sides could roll out a currency agreement “that could lead to a decision by the administration not to put forward a tariff rate hike on Oct. 15.”

Trump has accused China of devaluing its currency to minimize the added costs of U.S. tariffs on American importers. Trump took the rare step of declaring China a currency manipulator in August, and it’s unclear if a currency deal would reverse that designation. The next semi-annual Treasury report on exchange rate practices of major trading partners is due to be released Oct. 15.

Mnuchin said in April that a currency deal with China was nearly complete. People close to the talks said it could mirror currency provisions in the USMCA, which made countries reaffirm International Monetary Fund commitments not to manipulate currencies to gain a trade advantage.

The agreement didn’t apply any specific enforcement provision on those broader commitments but made transparency and reporting requirements subject to a dispute settlement process if they weren’t adhered to.

“We don’t think this is an issue that should dominate the trade talks,” Brilliant said. “There are bigger issues in our minds that have to be addressed in these trade negotiations.”

It remains unclear, however, whether Trump will agree to hold off on next week’s tariff increase based on the latest offers from the Chinese delegation.

One person close to the talks told POLITICO a delay of the tariff hike is unlikely to happen based on what China has offered so far.

Another person close to the negotiations also said what the Chinese offered at the beginning of this week was “clearly” not enough to roll back a 15 percent tariff the U.S. placed on roughly $110 billion worth of largely consumer goods from China on Sept. 1.

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