The Trump administration will continue to take a tough line with China in trade talks, Vice President Mike Pence said on Thursday.
Speaking at the CNBC Institutional Investor Delivering Alpha conference, Pence said that the U.S. would continue to insist that China make significant reforms to its economic system, including abandoning trade barriers, forced technology transfers, and predatory subsidies for ‘national champion’ businesses.
“I’ve been in the Oval Office where, with top Chinese officials, the president has made it very, very clear that the structural issues are central,” Pence said in an onstage interview with CNBC’s Joe Kernen.
Pence’s message undercut the notion that the Trump administration might be tempted to take a smaller deal to set aside the trade tensions that have rattled some American businesses and slowed the Chinese economy.
“The era of economic surrender is over,” Pence said. “We’re going to continue to stand strong.”
Talks between mid-level U.S. and Chinese officials are expected to take place in Washington, D.C. next week. High-level talks, which would include Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, are expected to follow in early October.
Pence said it remains unclear whether those talks will make significant progress.
“We have a sense that China wants to do a deal we just don’t know if they want to do it yet,” Pence said.
Pence said that American policy makers had erred in the past when they assumed that admitting China into the World Trade Organization would lead the country to abandon its predatory trade practices and embrace liberty for its people.
“The truth is, China has not been willing to embrace the international rules of commerce,” Pence said. “And the truth is, in many ways, they’ve gone in the opposite direction with individual liberties.”