Steve Schwarzman: Hard to Predict What China Will Say in Trade Talks

Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman speaks during the Business Roundtable CEO Innovation Summit in Washington, DC on December 6, 2018. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
IM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. will have a better idea of China’s readiness to make a deal after top-level trade talks resume in October, according to Steve Schwarzman.

Schwarzman, the billionaire co-founder of investment giant Blackstone and an informal advisor to President Donald Trump, said in a lunch interview at the CNBC Institutional Investor Delivering Alpha conference in New York City that it is “hard to know” whether a deal can be reached “until you see the first cards that the Chinese put on the table.”

The last round of negotiations in Shanghai this summer quickly fell apart when officials from China demanded that the U.S. immediately repeal tariffs the Trump administration has already placed on Chinese goods and drop charges against an executive from Chinese telecom giant Huawei. U.S. officials were surprised at the aggressive stance taken by Chinese trade negotiators.

Talks are set to begin again in Washington, D.C. on Friday, with midlevel negotiators meeting to set the stage for high-level talks in early October.

“You’ll know by the time that meeting is finished, generally, what they are prepared to do, and then you should ask that question,” Schwarzman said. “Before they come over and display what their current thinking is, it’s sort of hard to say.”

Schwarzman has extensive business experience with China and is sometimes described as Trump’s “China whisperer.” He is thought to have the closest relationship with Beijing of any U.S. businessman. He has worked behind the scenes to ease tensions between the two countries and urged President Trump to maintain warm relations with China’s leader, Xi Jinping, according to people familiar with the matter.

He is a controversial figure to some of Trump supporters, who fear the Wall Street titan is too close to China and are wary of his close relationship with President Trump.

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