Trade war, day 187: Talks are extended to third day in Beijing

Foreign Affairs

U.S.-China trade talks between mid-level officials, which were scheduled for January 7-8, have been extended a day, the U.S. Trade Representative confirmed to the South China Morning Post.

This is probably a positive signal, as it’s an indication that “the whole thing has not blown up yet and that they believe that it’s worthwhile to spend more time together,” Claire Reade, a former China-focused official at the USTR told SCMP.

  • The Trump administration is talking up the prospects of a deal: Minutes after negotiations reportedly wrapped up in the evening in Beijing on January 8, Donald Trump tweeted, “Talks with China are going very well!”
  • “I think there’s a very good chance that we will get a reasonable settlement that China can live with, that we can live with and that addresses all of the key issues,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC yesterday.
  • But: “one big challenge is figuring out how to hold Beijing to commitments to keep Chinese firms and officials from pressuring U.S. partners into transferring technology against their will. The U.S. Trade Representative Office has been asking industry groups and think tanks for suggestions on how they should carry out such enforcement,” according to the Wall Street Journal (paywall).
  • The two sides remain “far from striking a deal,” the Journal says.
  • “We will release a detailed readout after [the talks] are concluded,” the Chinese foreign ministry said, Bloomberg reports (porous paywall).
  • The U.S. has “sought to delay” the next round of talks, the New York Times says (porous paywall), until after Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on January 29. That would leave just three business days before the week of February 4, when China goes on Lunar New Year holiday to celebrate the start of the Year of the Pig (which officially begins on February 5).
  • That’s a problem for Beijing, because it would prefer for economic official Liú Hè 刘鹤 to visit D.C. for Cabinet-level talks and come away with positive results a bit farther in advance of the holiday, to shore up consumer sentiment. Liu made an unexpected appearance at talks yesterday, we noted for Access members (paywall), indicating Beijing’s eagerness to find a deal.

Other relevant news:

Previously in SupChina’s trade war coverage:

Trade war, day 182: Weak China sales for Apple