Trade Talks End Ahead of Schedule, Won’t Resume For Months

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

No one expected Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer would walk away from the first round of trade talks with China since the Spring with a deal to end Trump's trade war, but there's at least one thing that surprised me.

This week's talks ended ahead of schedule, lasting all of two days, and their next meeting won't take place until sometime in September.

From the Associated Press:

The meeting, aimed at ending a tariff war over trade and technology, ended about 40 minutes ahead of schedule. Neither delegation spoke to reporters before U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin left for the airport.

But White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement hours later that “the meetings were constructive,” and that talks are expected to resume in Washington in September, though exact dates were not announced.

The idea that a trade deal will be hammered out in the next six months seems pretty far-fetched if they're only going to meet face-to-face every other month. And that's assuming Trump won't get bored and impose tariffs before then.

The statement from the White House also says China committed to making new, large-scale purchases of American agricultural products, but the Chinese government's statement does not, only that the topic was discussed.

I don't know who is telling the truth or if neither side is, but it strikes me that talks between the Trump regime and China are starting to resemble talks between the Trump regime and North Korea. The Chinese government understands that this is about optics and expectations for Trump, not economics, and they can also play that game.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Wednesday that she was not aware of the latest developments during the talks, but that it was clear it was the United States that continued to “flip flop”.

“I believe it doesn’t make any sense for the U.S. to exercise its campaign of maximum pressure at this time,” Hua told a news briefing in response to a question about the tweets.

“It’s pointless to tell others to take medication when you’re the one who is sick,” she said.

She's not wrong.

  • Draxiar

    There must be some kind of way out of here….said the joker to the thief.

    I’ll let you pick who is the joker and who is the thief when it comes to China and trump.

  • muselet

    “The meetings were constructive” is the sort of thing you say when the meetings were noisy, contentious and unproductive. Sure, it can mean the meetings were constructive, in exactly the same way that calling someone in the UK “tired and emotional” can mean they’re tired and emotional (though it almost always means they’re falling-down drunk).

    Six months to a trade deal is nigh-on impossible, and Hua Chunying is very nearly saying so out loud. China isn’t going to help Donald Trump climb out of the hole he’s dug the US into, at least not yet, and not without getting something of value in return. That, not acting like a wannabe mob enforcer, is how tough negotiating is done.

    I have no confidence in the ability of Robert Lighthizer and Steven Mnuchin to reach a deal with China, and that would be true even if Donald Trump didn’t tweet about China for the next two months. I should find that terrifying, but it just seems normal for this administration.