Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Tuesday pivot on trade and intellectual property is encouraging to the White House, but the Trump administration will move forward with intentions President Donald Trump has announced until the Chinese government produces concrete actions.
Reporters repeatedly asked Press Secretary Sarah Sanders during Tuesday’s press conference about the Chinese President’s new promises to cut automobile tariffs and make improvements on protecting intellectual property in China.
Moments ahead of the press conference, President Trump tweeted:
Very thankful for President Xi of China’s kind words on tariffs and automobile barriers…also, his enlightenment on intellectual property and technology transfers. We will make great progress together!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 10, 2018
Jinping has made similar promises before. Sanders was asked if the new promises would be sufficient to prevent some of President Trump’s proposed tariffs on Chinese imports.
“We are encouraged by President Xi’s words and his kind words,” Sanders said before stipulating that the Trump administration wants to see “concrete actions from China” and that they will “continue moving forward in the process and in the negotiations until those happen.”
Reporters pressed on whether Xi’s words were seen as rhetoric by the White House and if Trump would back off on possible tariffs. Sanders reiterated that the words were seen as “a step in the right direction” and were encouraging, but that the administration wants “to see concrete steps and concrete action by the Chinese.”
Until the administration sees those concrete steps from the Chinese, it will “continue moving forward.”
Asked what “actions” the administration wants to see from the Chinese to prevent U.S. tariffs, Sanders said that would be part of “private negotiations” with the Chinese.
Trump followed U.S. imposition of steel and aluminum tariffs from all countries with a request to the U.S. Trade Representative to look at, potentially, $50 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports. The Chinese responded with their own threat of $50 billion in tariffs on U.S. imports. President Trump shot back by upping potential tariffs on Chinese goods to $100 billion.
Within hours of Trump’s announcement, newly minted National Economic Advisor Larry Kudlow told a group of reporters that he, the President, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin found China’s response to the first part of the U.S. part of the process “highly unsatisfactory.”
Kudlow further stated that members of the administration were discussing putting together a “list of suggestions to China as to what we would like to have come out of this” to provide to the Chinese.
The Trump administration has repeatedly criticized China for unfair trade practices and stealing of intellectual property – practices that the U.S. seeks to curtail with these new trade actions.
Another reporter pressed Sanders on whether the administration believes the Chinese will take the concrete actions that they seek. “We certainly hope so,” she replied, but qualified her response by reaffirming that in the meantime the administration will move forward with the “actions that the President has announced.”
Sanders refuted one reporter’s implication that Xi’s promises were being met with a somewhat “lukewarm reception.” She again affirmed Trump’s appreciation for Xi’s “kind words,” but said the administration wants “to see more than just words … to see action.”
“That’s what we’re focused on pushing forward,” said Sanders, who added that they were committed to “stop the unfair trade practices. That’s been what the President is committed to, not just rhetoric, but actual action.”
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