Bilateral China-U.S. Talks on Trade


The first face-to-face talks between China and the U.S. commenced on Monday, January 7th and concluded on January 9th having been extended by a day. The U.S. delegation was led by Deputy Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish and included Undersecretaries from the Departments of Agriculture, Energy and the Treasury. The U.S. delegation interacted with their counterparts of the Government of China.

The President tweeted on Monday that “talks with China were going very well”. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross noted that the discussions at the appropriate staff level will determine how the Administration moves forward. It is evident that the trade aspects of the dispute could be expeditiously resolved. Unfortunately the underlying structural problems will represent a more substantial challenge since resolution would require profound changes in short- and long-term policy in China which would require the authority of senior officials reporting directly to President Xi.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang agreed that the parties would hold positive and constructive dialog to resolve economic and trade disputes. The comment by President Trump that “the Chinese economy is weak and motivating Beijing to work towards a deal” was refuted by Lu. He stated “China’s development has ample tenacity and huge potential. We have firm confidence in the strong long-term fundamentals of the Chinese economy. Observers of the economy of China recognize that growth is slowing, albeit from a torrid place in past years. The Global Times of China which frequently serves as a outlet for government policy stated “Beijing would not cave into U.S. demands.” The editorial published on Sunday, January 6th included the statement “If China was going to raise the white flag, it would have done it already”.

The general impression from the bilateral talks was that progress was made on the trade issue with talks “extensive, in-depth and detailed” according to the Ministry of Commerce. The communiqué continued “a foundation was laid for the resolution of issues of mutual concern”

Further talks, hopefully at a higher level should soon resume as the March 2nd deadline for a resolution of the structural issues is fast approaching.