Wilbur Ross, US commerce secretary, left out of G20 activities

  • Ross has been part of high-level trade talks this year that involved a number of US and Chinese officials
  • But Trump’s decision to leave Ross back in Washington appears to be another sign of the commerce chief's diminished role in trade negotiations
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 December, 2018, 5:42am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 December, 2018, 6:21am

This story is published in a content partnership with POLITICO. It was originally reported by Doug Palmer on politico.com on November 30, 2018.

The White House has yet to release a list of officials who will accompany US President Donald Trump at the highly anticipated dinner meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping here on Saturday night – but Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is conspicuously absent from the US delegation at the G20 summit.

Trump’s decision to leave Ross back in Washington appears to be another sign of the commerce chief's diminished role in trade negotiations, after he had taken the lead over the trade portfolio early in the administration.

The Commerce Department did not respond to a request for an explanation of why Ross was not at the summit. Politico previously reported that Ross could be part of an expected exodus of Trump Cabinet officials. Ross attended an aerospace industry event in the US on Thursday.

In April 2017 Trump tapped both Ross and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to lead a short-lived Comprehensive Economic Dialogue with Beijing, which collapsed after it failed to produce significant results.

Ross, who turned 81 this week, led a big US business delegation to Beijing last year, when Trump stopped at the Chinese capital on his way to the 2107 APEC leaders meeting.

Additionally, the Commerce secretary has been part of high-level trade talks this year that involved a number of US and Chinese officials and also were unsuccessful in resolving trade frictions.

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The Trump-Xi dinner is seen as a critical juncture in the US-China trade relationship. Mnuchin, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, chief White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro are expected to be at the table on Saturday night.

Lighthizer has spearheaded the effort that prompted Trump to impose tariffs on around US$250 billion worth of Chinese goods, actions that led Beijing to strike back with duties against US$110 billion in US exports.

Trump’s trade chief said on Friday that he expected the Trump-Xi dinner would be a “success”, but stopped short of predicting the two sides would reach a deal.