Trump Claims Non-Existent Progress in Trade Talks; Delays Tariff Hike

Need more time
Vice Premier Liu He with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer during a meeting with President Donald Trump (Photo: Reuters)

President Donald Trump has confirmed the ongoing trade talks with China are going nowhere with his announcement he intends to continue the failed talks past their original March 1 deadline.

Nothing substantive was accomplished in hastily arranged trade talks over the past month in Washington D.C. and Beijing despite the White House continues to claim progress in the talks.

Trump has also moved the once "immovable" March 2 deadline for a new round of punitive tariffs on China to take effect at an unspecified later date. Originally, U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of imports from China will increase to 25 percent from 10 percent if China and the U.S. couldn't reach a deal by March 1. Trump has extended this deadline.

Some observers noted the delay gives China the upper hand in further talks.

"We can't be sure whether this constitutes a major cave or success because we don't know the details of what has been negotiated," said Scott Kennedy, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC.

"But ... agreeing to extend negotiations a few more weeks definitely is in China's interests. At this point, the U.S. has likely gotten all it's going to get out of China."

As it stands today, the trade talks are an abject failure since both sides haven't even gotten to drafting even an accord or a memorandum of understanding specifying the matters they agree and disagree on.

On Sunday, Trump announced the U.S. will delay imposing additional tariffs on China in March. He also promised both sides will again try to work out a clear end to the trade war. In characteristic fashion, Trump only tweeted about nebulous success claiming "substantial progress" in bilateral talks with China.

In his first tweet, Trump said he is "pleased to report that the U.S. has made substantial progress in our trade talks with China on important structural issues including intellectual property protection, technology transfer, agriculture, services, currency, and many other issues.

Because of these allegedly "very productive talks, I will be delaying the U.S. increase in tariffs now scheduled for March 1. Assuming both sides make additional progress, we will be planning a Summit for President Xi and myself, at Mar-a-Lago, to conclude an agreement. A very good weekend for U.S. & China!"

The only concrete achievement for the U.S. is China's intent to purchase up to $1.2 trillion in U.S. goods. Both sides have made no progress whatsoever concerning the forced transfer of technology required by China of its business partners and China's lack of respect for the intellectual property rights of firms doing business within its borders.

Trump first confirmed the talks were going nowhere last week when he let slip he could let the deadline for a trade agreement "slide for a little while." He said at the time he'd prefer not to set a new deadline but still expects to meet with Xi to close the deal.

© 2019 Business Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
Sign Up for Newsletters and Alerts