Washington and Beijing ‘miles and miles’ from trade resolution, says US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross
- ‘There are lots and lots of issues’ that need to be worked out, says the US commerce secretary, including enforcement of commitments
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Thursday downplayed the possibility for a quick breakthrough next week to resolve deep-rooted conflicts in the US-China trade talks.
“There has been a lot of anticipatory work done. But we are miles and miles from getting a resolution,” Ross said.
In an interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box, Ross said China was sending a large delegation of around 30 people to Washington for the trade meetings on January 30-31.
Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He will lead a delegation to meet US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and attempt to put a brake on the trade war by March 1.
“Trade is complicated,” Ross said. “There are lots and lots of issues.”
“Not just how many soybeans and how much [liquid natural gas], but even more importantly, structural reforms that we really think are needed in the Chinese economy … enforcement mechanisms and penalties for failure to adhere to whatever we agree to,” said Ross.
Concerns are on the rise about little progress in addressing issues related to China’s economic and technology policies, and whether both countries can reach consensus on a concrete action plan to deliver commitments.
Top leaders from both countries reached a 90-day truce on December 1 to stop further tariffs on each other. Face-to-face negotiations resumed earlier this month in Beijing, but little progress was made.
Sources said China remained focused on large purchases of American products while refraining from discussing tough issues such as state subsidies and intellectual property.
Only weeks are left for both countries to reach a meaningful deal before the deadline.
Uncertainties remain whether the US will increase the tariffs on US$200 billion of Chinese products from the current 10 per cent to 25 per cent.
Many believe that the higher tariffs would be another blow to the Chinese economy, which already faces slowing growth.
US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that the US was “doing very well in our negotiation with China”, but suggested that he did not care whether or not next week's discussions resulted in a deal.
“They're paying billions of dollars to the United States Treasury,” he told reporters in the White House, repeating his false assertion that it is Chinese exporters rather than US importers that are largely footing the bill of tariffs. “One way or the other, it doesn't matter – one way or the other, we're going to do well.”
Ross said he believed that China would like to make a deal but “it has to be a deal that works for both parties”.
“People shouldn’t think that the events of next week are going to be the solution to all of the issues between the United States and China,” he added. “That’s different from saying that we won’t get to a deal. I think there’s a fair chance we do get to a deal.”
“Hopefully, we can make a good start on it and follow up later on.”