President Donald Trump hinted at the need for a “different structure” for a bilateral trade deal with China just one day after the Commerce Department’s Tuesday determination that China has been using Vietnam to circumvent anti-steel dumping measures.
United States and China trade officials have been holding bilateral meetings over the past several weeks, first in Beijing and then Washington, DC.
On Tuesday Trump told reporters that he wasn’t happy with the progress of trade talks with China and on Wednesday he tweeted:
Our Trade Deal with China is moving along nicely, but in the end we will probably have to use a different structure in that this will be too hard to get done and to verify results after completion.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 23, 2018
He stated that the trade deal was “moving along nicely,” but qualified the statement with the ultimate need for a“different structure.” He downplayed expectations of a potential deal by calling it “too hard to get done,” and bringing attention to the difficulty of verifying results of a deal after one has been made.
The message comes one day after the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that it had completed an investigation into certain steel imports from Vietnam and found that China had been funneling its steel dumping through Vietnam to circumvent anti-dumping measures. The determination resulted in the imposition of rates on those types of steel imports that are in line with the rates imposed on Chinese imports.
President Trump ordered new tariffs on all steel and aluminum tariffs in early March. The U.S. has since made exemptions or delays for some countries after further negotiation. Canada and Mexico received delays in the imposition of the tariffs as the countries renegotiate NAFTA.
The Trump administration’s top trade officials traveled to Beijing for an initial round of trade talks between the U.S. and China. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin led the delegation that included Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and chief economic advisers to the president Larry Kudlow and Peter Navarro. Chinese Vice Premier Liu He was involved in the talks in Beijing as well as later talks in Washington, DC. The U.S. officials left for China with cautious optimism and headed home with the message that the trade relationship between the two nations required “immediate attention.”
The Trump administration has been adamant that there needs to be a rebalancing of the U.S. trade deficit with China and a remedy to the stealing of U.S. intellectual property in China.
A second round of trade talks between Chinese and U.S. trade officials in Washington, DC varied which U.S. trade officials from the Beijing trip were included in the D.C.-based meetings. Mnuchin still led the talks, but reports surfaced that Navarro and Kudlow were excluded from some of the meetings.
U.S. officials were focused going in to the D.C. talks on rebalancing the bilateral economic relationship between the two nations.
Upon conclusion of the meetings, the two nations released a joint statement. This read in part, “There was a consensus on taking effective measures to substantially reduce the United States trade deficit in goods with China.” A U.S. delegation is set to return to China to work out details of reducing the U.S. trade deficit with the nation.
Since the conclusion of those talks, China has stated an intention to cut tariffs on U.S. auto and auto part exports to China almost in half. Mnuchin said that the U.S. will hold off on the potential of $150 billion in additional U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports as the nations continue trade negotiations.
On Tuesday President Trump told reporters that he wasn’t happy with the progression of the talks as he sat beside South Korean President Moon Jae-in and spoke of a perceived change in tenor from North Korea after the nations’ leaders held a second surprise meeting with Chinese leaders in China. Responding to a reporter’s question about the U.S.-China trade talks, Trump said the talks are “a start,” but that he’s not satisfied. “We have a long way to go,” he said.
Kudlow previously told Breitbart News radio listeners that the U.S.-China trade negotiation is “going to be a lengthy process.” He made clear that the “unfair and illegal trading practices, intellectual property theft, [and] forced technology transfers” of China. Kudlow said these practices must be stopped and that China was to blame for the actions Trump has been driven to take with regard to China. He referenced the president’s requirement that trade issues with China must change.
Kudlow ultimately said that he believes China wants a deal, but that the U.S. will require a “deal that would help the U.S. economy and it’s workforce.” If China doesn’t permit this, he suggested that the U.S. would be forced to “take stronger measures” to see the change it requires in the trade relationship with China.
Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana