U.S. And China Remain Far Apart On Key Issues To Resolve Trade War

Dec 4, 2018
Originally published on December 4, 2018 10:16 am
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

President Trump's trade deal with China is an agreement to work toward a deal over the next 90 days. That's what the president of the United States and the president of China emerged saying after a dinner in Argentina over the weekend. They remain far apart on the substantive issues. And both nations are telling different stories about what they've agreed to so far. Here's NPR's Jim Zarroli.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: Trump lost no time in bragging about this weekend's trade cease-fire with China. He said it was an extraordinary meeting, a big leap forward in relations between the countries. It would help farmers, he said. White House economic aid Larry Kudlow told reporters about the level of engagement the Chinese showed and how committed they appeared to be to negotiating a deal.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LARRY KUDLOW: We heard things we never heard before. So I'm hopeful. Color me hopeful, please.

ZARROLI: But the administration was vague about some of the details of what was actually agreed to this weekend. Trump tweeted that China had agreed to, quote, "reduce and remove the 40 percent tariffs it's placed on American cars sold in China." But Kudlow couldn't really say for sure how much the tariffs would be cut.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KUDLOW: Well, they're going to rollback their auto tariffs. I assume they're going to roll them all the way back with - but that's an assumption.

ZARROLI: The two countries can work out some of the details about cars and soybeans, but on the structural issues, they remain decidedly far apart. The Trump administration wants to do something about China stealing American trade secrets. It also wants China to stop forcing American companies to surrender technological know-how to Chinese partners when they do business there. But economist Mary Lovely of Syracuse University says Beijing doesn't even acknowledge these are problems.

MARY LOVELY: What do you talk about when one side insists that it's happening and the other side insists that it doesn't? Just deciding and identifying what the issues are that we're going to talk about further is a big task for the 90 days.

ZARROLI: The differences between China and the U.S. could be seen in how they portrayed this weekend's meeting. Trump said China had agreed to open its markets to American products and begin to address intellectual property theft. But Chinese media didn't mention any of that. Instead, it highlighted how the U.S. had backed down on its threat to raise tariffs. Robert Scott is an economist at the Economic Policy Institute.

ROBERT SCOTT: We really had two very different views of what was agreed to in the room. Now it's going to be up to the Chinese negotiators and Robert Lighthizer and his colleagues to negotiate an actual deal.

ZARROLI: Scott is skeptical about the upcoming trade talks between China and the U.S. He says China has a long history of promising to change its trade practices only to slow walk the implementation.

SCOTT: They will promise to open their markets. They will promise to remove market access barriers. But they will continue to do the same thing they have been doing for 20 years now.

ZARROLI: But China is also contending with an economy that's slowing down. And it needs to keep access to U.S. markets. Like the U.S., it has a lot of incentive to cool down trade tensions even if it's reluctant to look like it's doing so.

Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.