White House Says First Day of China Trade Avengers Quest Was ‘Fairly Positive’

Steven Mnuchin
The Associated Press

A Trump administration economist Thursday said the first day of trade talks in China was “fairly positive.”

Mark Calabria, chief economist to Vice President Mike Pence, said at an event in Washington that the U.S. has turned over a detailed “list of asks” to Chinese officials but did not elaborate on the contents of that list, Bloomberg News reported. The U.S. is expected to press China over rules requiring U.S. companies to partner with Chinese companies in order to operate in China, requirements that the Trump administration says facilitates forced technology transfers.

“What I heard from the first day, and again they’ve been there for a full day of negotiations, has been fairly positive,” Calabria said, according to Bloomberg. “The difficulty will always be that we will most of the time hear pretty positive things from China and the question is whether they will actually do them. So that’s going to be the tough part.”

Calabria’s remarks appeared to reassure investors that the administration is working to reach an amicable trade deal rather than spark a trade war. The Dow Jones Industrial Average turned positive following the Bloomberg report.

The White House has sent a large delegation led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to China to negotiate over trade issues. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow are taking part. Some in the administration have described the team as the “Trade Avengers.”

The first day of talks passed without any official word of what was discussed in the closed-door meetings. Mnuchin, Ross, Kudlow, and Lighthizer all declined to comment after arriving at their hotel at the end of the first day of talks. The Chinese media has reportedly been instructed not to report on the meetings beyond what is contained in an official government press release.

The Trump administration has been trying to lower expectations that the meetings could result in a major breakthrough. It has been described by both U.S. and Chinese officials as a chance for the U.S. to exchange views rather than a negotiation that would produce more tangible results. No official press conferences or briefings have been scheduled so far.