November 11, 2019

United States, China Send Conflicting Messages About Trade Talks

Early last week, Reuters reported the U.S. and Chinese governments reached a plan to roll back tariffs on one another’s goods in a “phase one” trade deal if that deal is completed. (As The Wall Street Journal reminded readers, the “phase one” pact the two countries are working on would include new rules to deter currency manipulation, additional Chinese purchases of American farm goods, and provisions to protect intellectual property and open up Chinese industries to U.S. firms.) The Chinese Commerce Ministry went further in its explanation, telling the media the two countries had agreed to cancel existing tariffs in several phases.

While an anonymous U.S. official confirmed to Reuters that a rollback on existing penalties would be part of an initial trade agreement and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said there will “be tariff agreements and concessions” the president would not commit to the idea. Indeed, as Politico noted on Friday, President Donald Trump said, “I haven’t agreed to anything.”

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro also told the media nothing has been decided. In an interview with Fox Business he said, “There is no agreement at this time to remove any of the existing tariffs as a condition of the phase one deal and the only one who can make that decision is President Donald J. Trump and it’s as simple as that.” In a separate story, Reuters also said a roll-back faces “stiff opposition” from some of the president’s top advisers.

News outlets also reported last week that, due to difficulties finding a place and time to meet, President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping may not be able to sign a partial, phase one deal until December.