Trump administration officials are not confident that trade talks this week will produce any agreement to lower trade tensions.
China has sent signals this week that it would accept a smaller trade deal that would involve the U.S. holding off on new tariffs in exchange for purchases of U.S. agricultural goods. On Wednesday afternoon, Reuters reported that China had “lowered its expectations” for progress on trade talks in reaction to the Commerce Department blacklisting dozens of Chinese tech companies over human rights violations.
Speaking to the press on Wednesday, President Donald Trump said he was not lowering his own expectations for the talks.
“I’m driving a tough deal because I have to,” Trump said. “I told that to President Xi. I said, ‘This can’t be like a 5o-50 deal. If it’s a 50-50 deal, you’re up here and we’re down here. If it’s a 50-50 deal, it doesn’t work. This has to be a better deal from our standpoint.”
Midlevel officials from the Trump administration and China have been meeting last week and this week to set the stage for the high-level meetings set to begin on Wednesday. But few in the Trump administration are expecting a break-through, according to sources close to the talks who spoke with Breitbart News .
There’s some concern that the talks could go awry, breaking-off early if China plays hardball. That is what happened in Shanghai this summer when U.S. officials quickly realized that the talks were not going to be productive. After U.S. officials debriefed the president on the talks, President Trump quickly announced a new round of tariff hikes.
It was hoped early on that more time and higher tariffs would convince China to come to the next round of negotiations with a more open attitude toward the reforms with regard to forced technology transfer and industrial policy that the U.S. has demanded from the start of the trade fight last year. Those hopes have largely faded over the past two weeks, according to people familiar with the matter.
An agreement is still possible, according to people involved in the talks. But it largely depends on what China is willing to negotiate when high-level talks begin Thursday.
“It all depends on whether China is willing to make a deal,” an official said, echoing the words of President Trump from earlier this week. “Not many of us are confident they’re there yet.”