United States trade officials lined up opposite Chinese counterparts at a Washington, DC, negotiating table Thursday morning to begin two days of time-sensitive trade negotiations.
Approximately a dozen negotiators from each the U.S. and Chinese sides sat across from one another in the White House Indian Treaty Room just after 9 a.m. United States officials declined to answer questions reporters shouted at them.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer sat at the center of the U.S. delegation and directly across from the special envoy for Chinese President Xi Jinping, Vice Premier Liu He. Lighthizer simply told the group “thank you” in the short time reporters were allowed in the room.
Liu’s travels as the president’s special envoy implies the potential of stronger power to negotiate terms. Though Liu was in Washington for trade talks in January, he was not participating as the president’s envoy. This marks the second time Liu has visited the U.S. as a special envoy for President Xi; the first time was in May 2018.
Others seated around the negotiating table included Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, Director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Peter Navarro, Chief Agricultural Negotiator Gregg Doud, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States to China Terry Branstad, Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney, and Commerce Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Gilbert Kaplan.
Seated next to Liu was Central Bank Governor Yi Gang. Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankai was positioned just two seats from Liu.
The Chinese delegation also included Vice Finance Minister Liao Min, Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang, Vice Agriculture Minister Han Jun, Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen, and Secretary General of National Development and Reform Commission Cong Laing.
President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi agreed to a 90-day truce on increasing tariffs between the two nations as they met at the G20 Argentina on December 1. The agreement included promises from Xi to resume increased purchases of certain U.S. commodities hit by Chinese retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods. President Trump has repeatedly called on China to halt “unfair” trading practices, including the theft of U.S. intellectual property, a U.S. non-negotiable in the trade talks between the two nations.