Trade war, day 201: U.S. cancels lower-level trade talks ahead of Liu He visit

Domestic News

Photo: Tom Brenner, New York Times

Next week, on January 30-31, vice premier Liú Hè 刘鹤 will visit Washington, D.C. for high-level trade talks. His delegation was supposed to be preceded this week by a preparatory visit of two mid-level officials: Wáng Shòuwén 王受文, vice-minister of commerce, and Liào Mín 廖岷, vice-minister of finance. That visit was canceled, the Financial Times reports, by the Trump administration in a show of displeasure over “a lack of progress on ‘forced’ technology transfers and potentially far-reaching ‘structural’ reforms to China’s economy.”

The FT says that structural issues “could ultimately derail the talks,” and they certainly could, but this cancellation also doesn’t necessarily change the trajectory towards Trump accepting whatever deal comes to him after Liu He and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer hash it out. (See last Friday’s Access email for more on the current trend away from further tariffs raises, and towards a [rather unambitious] deal for U.S.-China economic relations.)

The New York Times adds:

Trump administration officials have been debating whether they can push more tariffs on China without facing significant repercussions. China’s economy is already slowing, in part because of the tariffs, and any further weakening could hurt global economic growth and the United States economy, which is itself showing signs of cooling.

Also: “it is unclear whether China will pressure the Trump administration to drop its efforts to extradite” Meng Wanzhou, a scenario which could be just as likely to derail trade talks as Trump changing his mind on structural economic issues.

Other trade-war-related links for today, starting with two charts about China’s economic slowdown tweeted out by FT reporter Tom Hancock:

Previously in SupChina’s trade war coverage:

Trade war, day 195: Chinese tourism to U.S. still growing