Archive for ‘Robert Lighthizer’

14/03/2019

Trump says he is in no rush to complete China trade deal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he was in no rush to complete a trade pact with China and insisted that any deal include protection for intellectual property, a major sticking point between the two sides during months of negotiations.

Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping had been expected to hold a summit at the president’s Mar-a-Lago property in Florida later this month, but no date has been set for a meeting and no in-person talks between their trade teams have been held in more than two weeks.
Bloomberg reported on Thursday that a meeting between the two was more likely to take place in April at the earliest.
A person familiar with the matter told Reuters that there “were rumblings” in Washington about a possible meeting in late April.
The president, speaking to reporters at the White House, said he thought there was a good chance a deal would be made, in part because China wanted one after suffering from U.S. tariffs on its goods.
But he acknowledged Xi may be wary of coming to a summit without an agreement in hand after seeing Trump end a separate summit in Vietnam with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un without a peace deal.
“I think President Xi saw that I’m somebody that believes in walking when the deal is not done, and you know there’s always a chance it could happen and he probably wouldn’t want that,” Trump said.
China has not made any public comment confirming Xi is considering going to meet Trump in Florida or elsewhere.
The president, who likes to emphasize his own deal-making abilities, said an agreement to end a months-long trade war could be finished ahead of a presidential meeting or completed in-person with his counterpart.
“We could do it either way. We could have the deal completed and come and sign, or we could get the deal almost completed and negotiate some of the final points. I would prefer that,” he said.
Trump decided last month not to increase tariffs on Chinese goods at the beginning of March, giving a nod to the success of negotiations so far.
But hurdles remain, and intellectual property is one of them. Washington accuses Beijing of forcing U.S. companies to share their intellectual property and transfer their technology to local partners in order to do business in China. Beijing denies it engages in such practices.
Asked on Wednesday if intellectual property had to be included in a trade deal, Trump said: “Yes it does.”
He indicated that from his perspective, a meeting with Xi was still likely.
“I think things are going along very well – we’ll just see what the date is,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
“I’m in no rush. I want the deal to be right. … I am not in a rush whatsoever. It’s got to be the right deal. It’s got to be a good deal for us and if it’s not, we’re not going to make that deal.”

‘MAINTAINING CONTACT’

China’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that Xi had previously told Trump that he is willing to “maintain contacts” with the U.S. president.

Trump says he’s ‘in no rush’ to reach a trade deal with China
Over the weekend, Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen, who has been deeply involved in the trade talks with the United States, did not answer questions from reporters on whether Xi would go to Mar-a-Lago.
Two Beijing-based diplomatic sources, familiar with the situation, told Reuters that Xi would not be going to Mar-a-Lago, at least in the near term.
One said there had been no formal approach from the United States to China about such a trip, while the second said the problem was that China had realized a trade agreement was not going to be as easy to reach as they had initially thought.
“This is media hype,” said the first source, of reports Xi and Trump could meet this month in Florida.

Though Trump said he is not in a hurry, a trade deal this spring would give him a win to cite as an economic accomplishment as he advances his 2020 re-election campaign. The trade war has hurt the global economy and hung over stock markets, which would likely benefit from an end to the tensions.

In addition to smoothing over sticking points on content, the United States is eager to include a strong enforcement mechanism in a deal to ensure that Beijing can be held accountable if it breaks any of its terms.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who has spearheaded the talks from the American side, said on Tuesday that U.S. officials hoped they were in the final weeks of their talks with China but that major issues remained to be resolved.

Source: Reuters

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23/02/2019

Trump says he’s inclined to extend China trade deadline and meet Xi soon

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Friday there was “a very good chance” the United States would strike a deal with China to end their trade war and that he was inclined to extend his March 1 tariff deadline and meet soon with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“I think that we both feel there’s a very good chance a deal will happen,” Trump said.

Liu agreed there had been “great progress”.

“From China, we believe that (it) is very likely that it will happen and we hope that ultimately we’ll have a deal. And the Chinese side is ready to make our utmost effort,” he said at the White House.

The Republican president said he probably would meet with Xi in March in Florida to decide on the most important terms of a trade deal.

 

Optimism that the two sides will find a way to end the trade war lifted stocks, especially technology shares. The S&P 500 stock index reached its highest closing level since Nov. 8. Oil prices rose to their highest since mid-November, with Brent crude reaching a high of $67.73 a barrel. [.N] [O/R]

CURRENCY AGREEMENT

Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the two sides had reached an agreement on currency. Trump declined to provide details, but U.S. officials long have expressed concerns that China’s yuan is undervalued, giving China a trade advantage and partly offsetting U.S. tariffs.

Announcement of a pact aimed at limiting yuan depreciation was putting “the currency cart before the trade horse,” but would likely be positive for Asian emerging market currencies, said Alan Ruskin, global head of currency strategy at Deutsche Bank in New York.

“How can you agree to avoid excessive Chinese yuan depreciation or volatility if you have not made an agreement on trade that could have huge FX implications?” Ruskin asked in a note to clients.

In a letter to Trump read aloud by an aide to Liu at the White House, Xi called on negotiators to work hard to strike a deal that benefits both country.

Trump said a deal with China may extend beyond trade to encompass Chinese telecommunications companies Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corp.

The Justice Department has accused Huawei of conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions on Iran and of stealing robotic technology from T-Mobile US Inc.

Chinese peer ZTE was last year prevented from buying essential components from U.S. firms after pleading guilty to similar charges, crippling its operations.

MEMORANDUMS NO MORE

Trump appeared at odds with his top negotiator, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, on the preliminary terms that his team is outlining in memorandums of understanding for a deal with China. Trump said he did not like MOUs because they are short term, and he wanted a long-term deal.

“I don’t like MOUs because they don’t mean anything,” Trump said. “Either you are going to make a deal or you’re not.”

Lighthizer responded testily that MOUs were binding, but that he would never use the term again.

Reuters reported exclusively on Wednesday that the two sides were drafting the language for six MOUs covering the most difficult issues in the trade talks that would require structural economic change in China.

Negotiators have struggled this week to agree on specific language within those memorandums to address tough U.S. demands, according to sources familiar with the talks. The six memorandums include cyber theft, intellectual property rights, services, agriculture and non-tariff barriers to trade, including subsidies.

An industry source briefed on the talks said both sides have narrowed differences on intellectual property rights, market access and narrowing a nearly $400 billion U.S. trade deficit with China. But bigger differences remain on changes to China’s treatment of state-owned enterprises, subsidies, forced technology transfers and cyber theft of U.S. trade secrets.

Lighthizer pushed back when questioned on forced technology transfers, saying the two sides made “a lot of progress” on the issue, but did not elaborate.

The United States has said foreign firms in China are often coerced to transfer their technology to Chinese firms if they want to operate there. China denies this.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Friday urged the U.S. government to ensure the deal was comprehensive and addressed core issues, rather than one based on more Chinese short-term purchases of goods.

China has pledged to increase purchases of agricultural produce, energy, semiconductors and industrial goods to reduce its trade surplus with the United States.

China committed to buying an additional 10 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans on Friday, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on Twitter. China bought about 32 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans in 2017. The commitments are a “show of good faith by the Chinese” and “indications of more good news to come,” Perdue wrote.

China was the top buyer of U.S. soybeans before the trade war, but Beijing’s retaliatory tariffs on U.S. soybeans slashed business that had been worth $12 billion annually.

Source: Reuters

18/02/2019

China applauds ‘positive’ Donald Trump tweet, hopes for US trade war deal ahead of Washington talks

    • Opinion piece in major state media outlets is seen to be part of Beijing’s efforts to reassure its citizens that the tariff war with the United States will soon be over
    • A Chinese delegation led by Vice-Premier Liu He is expected to leave on Tuesday for the American capital after last week’s trade talks in Beijing produced ‘progress’

    China applauds ‘positive’ Donald Trump tweet ahead of Washington talks

    18 Feb 2019

    China and US make ‘progress’ but talks to head to Washington next week

    16 Feb 2019

    Chinese President Xi Jinping urged for a “mutually beneficial” trade deal in this week’s talks when he met US trade representative Robert Lighthizer and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in Beijing on Friday, according to Xinhua. Photo: Xinhua
    Chinese President Xi Jinping urged for a “mutually beneficial” trade deal in this week’s talks when he met US trade representative Robert Lighthizer and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in Beijing on Friday, according to Xinhua. Photo: Xinhua

    A tweet by US President Donald Trump on the ongoing trade war is a “positive” signal, brightening prospects of a deal from this week’s talks in Washington, according to an opinion piece published by China’s major state media outlets on Monday.

    Monday’s opinion piece was published the day before a Chinese delegation led by Vice-Premier Liu He is expected to leave for talks in Washington.

    In the tweet on Sunday, Trump said: “Important meetings and calls on China trade deal, and more, today with my staff. Big progress being made on soooo many different fronts! Our country has such fantastic potential for future growth and greatness on an even higher level!”

    The opinion piece, which was published by the official Xinhua news agency, the People’s Daily and the Global Times under the pseudonym Niu Tanqin, is seen to be part of Beijing’s efforts to reassure its citizens that the trade war with the United States will soon be over.

    It did contrast previous columns on Trump by the same author, who in March last year argued that China dislikes the American president for his “insatiable demands, greediness and lack of trust worthiness”.

    Last week’s trade talks in Beijing produced “progress” ahead of the March 1 deadline, which could see tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese products increased from 10 per cent to 25 per cent if the world’s two largest economies fail to reach a deal.

    The outcome of the talks in Washington, which are likely to be the last before March 1, will largely decide whether China and the United States can reach a pact, likely in the form of a memorandum of understanding, to suspend the tariff battle that has been roiling global markets and clouding growth prospects since last year.

    According to the opinion piece, Trump’s use of “soooo” instead of “so” indicated that the US president was excited when he heard reports from his trade envoys following the talks in Beijing, which Chinese President Xi Jinping attend on Friday.

    Donald J. Trump

    @realDonaldTrump

    Important meetings and calls on China Trade Deal, and more, today with my staff. Big progress being made on soooo many different fronts! Our Country has such fantastic potential for future growth and greatness on an even higher level!

    “The US side is attaching great importance [to the trade talks]. Although Trump is on vacation, he listened to relevant reports and he definitely will make specific instructions,” it added.

    Trump has been upbeat about the prospects of reaching a trade deal with China, and said on Friday at the White House: “It’s going extremely well.”

    Chinese President Xi urged for a “mutually beneficial” trade deal in this week’s talks when he met US trade representative Robert Lighthizer and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in Beijing on Friday, according to Xinhua.

    Stocks in China and Hong Kong surged on Monday, partly bolstered by the increased likelihood of a trade deal between China and the United States.

    Monday’s opinion piece fits into the latest official line that an agreement is very likely to end the tariff war after the Global Times said over the weekend that the bilateral trade talks are “sprinting” towards a positive end.

    Donald Trump’s demands ‘good for China’, says economist Jin Keyu

    Meanwhile, reports in China suggest differences between Beijing and Washington still remain over forced technology transfer, intellectual property rights, cyber theft as well as a verification system to ensure China keeps its promises.

    Xi told the US trade envoys that China is willing to “cooperate” but “cooperation has principals”, a statement showing that Beijing will not entertain US demands if it finds such demands violate China’s principals.

    A White House statement on Friday said that “much work remains”, showing gaps still exist.

    Source: SCMP

16/02/2019

As the clock ticks, there’s a path to a ‘win-win’ outcome in US-China trade talks

  • Ankit Panda writes that a meeting between Donald Trump and Xi Jinping could result in a way out of the impasse, at least temporarily
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 February, 2019, 6:02pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 February, 2019, 6:04pm

The usual cast of characters were back at the negotiating table, trying to find a way to stem another round of US tariff increases that were stayed in December after the Buenos Aires G20 meeting between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer were back in Beijing, where they again sat across the table from Vice-Premier Liu He, China’s lead trade negotiator. The US delegation also met Xi himself at the end of the talks on Friday.

Both nations said they had made progress to settle their disputes, but admitted there were still difficult issues to deal with. Negotiators will continue the talks in Washington next week.

The stakes are clear and the clock is ticking. The two sides need to arrive at an understanding by March 2, the day on which Trump has said he will move forward with an increase in tariffs.

At least that was the idea. In recent days, Trump has made multiple remarks that suggest the March deadline is anything but absolute. He has hinted he would be open to pushing it back if he sensed that a deal was around the corner. Reports have even suggested the White House is considering another 60-day extension of the tariff truce.

“They’re showing us tremendous respect,” Trump said of China’s attitude in the negotiations, adding that talks were “going along very well”. With Trump slated to travel to Asia at the end of the month for a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi, the prospect of a second meeting between him and Xi – right before the anticipated deadline – is very real. What’s slowly slipping through the cracks in this process is a sustainable and long-term agreement on structural reform in China, which is what’s been at the centre of the Trump administration’s trade grievances.

Already articulated US concerns cover a broad range of Chinese practices. The ideal short-term measures the American side would like to see include unconditional market access for US firms in China; a less insulated environment for state-owned enterprise decision making; greater regulatory transparency; and fairer legal protections for American businesses in China.

As with so many aspects of the Trump administration’s foreign policy, the US president’s personality is taking over the process, leaving his deputies who are doing the negotiating in a disadvantageous position. For China, the obvious answer then becomes not to discuss the nuances of what kinds of structural reform might be necessary with Lighthizer, but to simply get Xi in the room with Trump.

This mirrors the lesson that North Korea’s Kim has taken away over the course of nearly a year of negotiations with the US. Instead of expending any serious diplomatic capital in a detail oriented negotiation with the secretary of state or the president’s special representative, the key is to simply meet Trump and work out high-level arrangements mano a mano.

In this climate, we can’t expect a real resolution on the core issues. Everything from American misgivings about Beijing’s interventionist industrial policies that protect Chinese enterprises to broader structural shifts in the nature of the US-China economic relationship since the turn of the century are on the table today – and they’ll stay there.

Xi and Trump may well find a temporary way out of the impasse, giving global investors the runway necessary to avert the panic that would likely ensue if the US pushed ahead with a tariff increase on US$200 billion in Chinese goods. Even if China doesn’t quite give the United States a down payment on structural reforms, Xi can promise Trump that he will chip away at the trade deficit while leaving untouched the issues that a more detail oriented negotiator like Lighthizer might zero in on.

If there is a “win-win” outcome here, it would be for Trump and Xi to find an agreeable arrangement that would allow the US president to walk away looking tough to his base while leaving China’s core, long-term industrial policy trajectory unharmed. That would strip away any remaining negotiating leverage the US side might have within the trade war, and it’s not unlikely.

Source: SCMP

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