President Donald Trump is likely to announce Thursday afternoon plans for a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping intended to mark an end to the two nations’ year-long trade conflict.
“There is indeed a lot of progress being made and indications there could be a summit meeting in the near future,” said Myron Brilliant, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Both sides are working hard to wrap up the talks as soon as possible.”
Trump is scheduled to meet in the Oval Office at 4:30 p.m. with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, who leads Beijing’s negotiating team. In brief remarks to reporters at noon, the president said China would be buying “more than anybody would believe” under the bargain that was taking shape.
Brilliant, who has spoken with officials involved in the talks, said several issues remain unresolved and the president is not expected to announce terms of a final deal Thursday.
Michael Pillsbury, a China expert at the Hudson Institute, said the emerging accord would not erase all of the irritants in the U.S.-China relationship. “It’s closer to being a cease-fire,” said Pillsbury, an occasional Trump adviser on China.
It remains unclear whether the U.S. will cancel some or all of the tariffs the president imposed last year on more than $250 billion worth of Chinese imports. The president has spoken of keeping at least some tariffs in place as leverage to encourage the Chinese government to comply with an eventual agreement.
China is pushing for the tariffs to be removed before it will agree to lift its retaliatory tariffs on U.S. farm products and industrial goods including autos.
Also unclear is whether China will agree to the administration’s demand for an enforcement mechanism allowing the U.S. to reimpose tariffs if it believes China is not fulfilling its obligations.
Though Trump has been pushing for the Chinese leader to travel to the U.S. to sign a trade deal, the Chinese leader is unlikely to do so unless the agreement is 100 percent complete. If the two leaders decide to haggle in person over any final details, a third-country venue is more likely.
“Both leaders do seem to want a deal, so it’s likely they’ll get there,” said Timothy Keeler, a partner at Mayer Brown and a former chief of staff for the U.S. Trade Representative in the Obama administration.
On Wall Street, investors gave a muted cheer for news of progress in the talks. The Dow Jones industrial average rose about 125 points or less than 0.5 percent at midday.
Trump long has been an outspoken critic of Chinese trade practices. During his presidential campaign, he assailed China for the “rape” of the American economy.
He also vowed to eliminate the United States’ chronic trade deficit with China, yet saw it climb to a record $419.2 billion in 2018.
The president imposed tariffs on Chinese goods last year after concluding that Beijing was forcing U.S. companies to surrender proprietary technology in return for being allowed to do business in China.
Robert Lighthizer, the chief U.S. trade negotiator, also has complained about Chinese hackers stealing American trade secrets and discriminating against foreign companies.
In several rounds of talks, negotiators have roughed out an agreement of more than 120 pages that would include Chinese promises to reform elements of its state-led economy and to boost substantially their purchases of American products.
The president’s focus on securing massive new Chinese orders for American soybeans, aircraft and other products is expected to produce political gains in export-dependent states.
He has pressed negotiators to ensure that Chinese buyers place the bulk of promised orders before the 2020 election, according to Derek Scissors, a China expert at the American Enterprise Institute who the administration has consulted during the talks.
Scissors, and others who see China as a U.S. adversary, worry the trade bargain may carry unintended consequences.
“Do we want to become more dependent on China as an export market?” he asked.
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · David J. Lynch