Robert Lighthizer got tough with China last week, rescuing the trade talks that had stalled out after Chinese officials started to stonewall the Trump administration, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said Thursday.
The first day of negotiations last week “went very poorly,” Kudlow said. In fact, they were so bad that the second day’s scheduled talks between lower and mid-level officials were canceled altogether.
On the third day, when top-level officials met, U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer “read them the riot act,” Kudlow said in an interview with CNBC.
“Vice Premier Liu He, the leader of the Chinese side, responded and everything picked up,” Kudlow said.
The discussions then proceeded on a much more productive track and were extended an extra day, according to Kudlow.
“Mr. Lighthizer, and I’m the free trader in the building, has worked miracles on this Chinese deal,” Kudlow said. “We’ve never come this far on China trade and, again, the outlook for a deal is very positive.”
Kudlow said that reports that Lighthizer was breaking from the rest of the Trump administration in taking a tough stance before a House panel this week were “completely untrue.”
“As far as daylight between President Trump and Mr. Lighthizer, I think that’s just untrue,” Kudlow said. “I want to put these rumors to rest.”
“Last week was fantastic,” Kudlow said. “We’re making great headway on nontariff barriers and tariffs regarding various commodities such as soybeans and energy and beef. We have mechanisms with regard to enforcement, which is — I think — unparalleled.”