Inconclusive outcome of US-China trade talks
21 May 2018
Two days of talks in Washington between high-level US and Chinese delegations at the end of last week did not bring any substantial movement on the trade issues that have divided the two countries. The differences remain so wide that the Wall Street Journal reported the discussions ended up “with both sides arguing all night on Friday over what to say in a joint statement.”
The brief communiqué that finally emerged said there had been “constructive consultations” regarding trade and spoke of a “consensus on taking effective measures to substantially reduce the United States trade deficit in goods with China,” without specifying by how much.
“To meet the growing consumption needs of the Chinese people and the need for high-quality economic development, China will significantly increase purchases of United States goods and services. This will help support growth and employment in the United States,” it continued.
The phrasing was in line with the Chinese delegation’s insistence that it not be seen to be capitulating to US demands. In the course of the talks, Larry Kudlow, Trump’s economic adviser, indicated to journalists that China had agreed to US demands that the trade deficit be reduced by $200 billion. This was seen by the Chinese as a blatant attempt to push them into such a commitment and was denied by Chinese news outlets.
In a television interview, Kudlow yesterday downplayed the significance of the $200 billion figure, saying, “Maybe I got ahead of the curve,” and that it had been used as a “rough ballpark estimate.”
The statement said both sides had agreed on “meaningful increases” in US agricultural and energy exports and that the US would send a team to China…