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US-China trade talks stall amid tariff standoff

Negotiations between the United States and China have stalled after President Donald Trump ordered new tarif...

Posted: Sep 23, 2018 2:38 PM
Updated: Sep 23, 2018 2:38 PM

Negotiations between the United States and China have stalled after President Donald Trump ordered new tariffs on Chinese goods.

Senior US officials, led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, have been working to end the trade standoff through diplomacy. A new round of talks was in the works for the coming weeks, but Trump's decision to slap tariffs on an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese imports appears to have forestalled the negotiations for now.

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On Friday, a senior White House official said no new meetings are currently planned.

"There is no scheduled US-China negotiation at the moment," the official said. "That doesn't mean it wouldn't happen."

While no meetings between US and Chinese officials had been formally scheduled ahead of the tariff announcement, officials had been laying the groundwork for a new round of talks at the end of September that now appear to be off.

"There is no meeting that is on the books," the senior White House official said.

The tariffs Trump announced on Monday marked an escalation in a growing trade war between Washington and Beijing. Trump's aides are divided on a best strategy. Mnuchin has led diplomatic efforts to convince China to alter its trade practices. Meanwhile, hardliners within the administration have advocated a tougher approach.

Despite warnings of political fallout, Trump has sided with the hardliners, at least for now. He remains convinced that a trade battle with China is winnable and is bolstered by polls showing his tariffs are popular among his base of Republican voters.

But analysts and even some of Trump's aides worry the fallout from his trade war will not fade quickly, even if a deal is struck. A number of businesses, including Target, Apple, and Walmart, the country's largest retailer, warned the administration in a letter that new tariffs on Chinese goods would result in price hikes. And Jack Ma, the billionaire Alibaba chief, said this week the budding trade war has undermined his promise to bring 1 million jobs to the US.

"This promise was on the basis of friendly China-US cooperation and reasonable bilateral trade relations, but the current situation has already destroyed that basis," Ma said. "This promise can't be completed."

Beijing has vowed to retaliate and is poised to slap $60 billion worth of tariffs on US goods starting next week.

Even as he was announcing new tariffs this week, Trump threatened an additional round on $267 billion worth of Chinese imports if Beijing retaliates against US farmers or industrial workers. That would mean essentially all Chinese imports to the US would be subject to tariffs.

At the same time, Trump has not ruled out further negotiations with China, including a possible meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, perhaps on the sidelines of the G20 summit set for November in Argentina.

Some officials have said talks may have a greater chance of success after November's midterm elections, though deep Republican losses could drive Trump to stake out a harder line on an issue he believes is politically advantageous.

Trump has hailed his good relationship with Xi as a reason to believe the trade standoff can be resolved.

"They want to make a deal, and let's see if we can make a deal," he said on Friday evening during a campaign rally in Missouri.

Trump has also questioned whether his tough trade stance has pushed China to be less cooperative in applying sanctions pressure on North Korea.

"I hope they're still helpful," he said during an East Room press conference this week. "There's a question about that."

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