Inside the trade team that will accompany Donald Trump to the G20 summit meeting with Xi Jinping

  • It isn’t known if all nine advisers will be with the US president during trade talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping and his team
  • The specific representatives in the Chinese delegation remain unknown but top diplomats are set
PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 November, 2018, 4:19am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 November, 2018, 2:31pm

US President Donald Trump is expected to bring a team of nine aides to Buenos Aires for talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, though it is not known whether all nine will sit down at the dinner table with Xi on Saturday evening, according to a source who was briefed on the situation.

In addition to the last-minute inclusion of Peter Navarro, the chief trade adviser to Trump and a notorious China trade hawk, Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Matt Pottinger, the senior director for Asian affairs on the American National Security Council who had worked in China as a journalist, are expected to be part of the team accompanying Trump to the G20 summit meeting.

The other six aides on the list are White House chief of staff John Kelly, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, national security adviser John Bolton, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Xi and Trump’s make-or-break chance for a trade war ceasefire

When Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived at Buenos Aires airport on Thursday evening, Yi Gang, China’s central bank governor, was among the Chinese officials waiting for him at the tarmac.

While China has yet to officially announce the list of advisers who will accompany Xi to the dinner with Trump, China’s foreign ministry had said that Ding Xuexiang, Xi’s chief of staff, Yang Jiechi, the top diplomat, China foreign minister Wang Yi and the economic planning agency chief He Lifeng would attend.

Liu He, the Chinese vice-premier in charge of trade talks with the US, as well as Chinese commerce minister Zhong Shan, are expected to show up as well.

Trump and Xi’s high-stakes dinner will be closely watched as its outcome could shape the world’s future economic trajectory.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that Beijing and Washington were working on a plan to postpone until April tariff increases on Chinese imports, now due to be imposed on January 1, to allow time for further talks.

While any “ceasefire” of this nature would not addresses the fundamental differences between the two countries, the presence of Trump’s entire trade advisory team in Buenos Aires shows Washington’s intention of achieving the “maximum effect”, George Magnus, a research associate at the University of Oxford China Centre said.

US tells China: we want competition … but also cooperation

The full presence of the Trump administration team in Argentina could also mean that Trump and Xi “want to be able to announce something that will both help Trump’s ego after disappointing midterm elections, and take a bit of the heat off Xi”.

“It’s true that America’s heavyweights will be in Buenos Aires in force, and that alone could certainly raise expectations that the US side is pushing for and hopes to get something from Xi to ‘shout about’,” Magnus said.

At the same time, it also means that Xi has to make real concessions rather than just promises.