Without a presidential tête-à-tête, a U.S.-China trade deal by March 2 seems unlikely.
During his State of the Union speech this week, President Donald Trump declared that any new trade deal with China must include “real, structural change to end unfair trade practices, reduce our chronic trade deficit, and protect American jobs.” It looks like he meant it.
Trump said on Thursday that he does not plan to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping this month, withdrawing his earlier far more optimistic comment that he would indeed meet Xi before the March 2 conclusion of the tariff truce.
This reversal suggests that Trump is disinclined to seek a quick and easy solution to trade negotiations and neglect the broader, more deeply embedded canker of U.S.-China trade talks – the Chinese government’s flagrant disregard for fair trade practices.
As Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul writes in RealClearPolitics:
“The Trump administration should be seeking measurable improvements to China’s industrial policies so that those policies don’t tacitly encourage economic espionage or serve as release valves for Beijing’s intentional industrial overcapacities. It should maintain those tariffs and a strict enforcement regimen to hold China’s attention.”
With news of Trump’s postponement of a meeting with Xi, there’s hope yet that the Trump administration remains attuned to the true goal of the trade negotiations when U.S. representatives meet with their Chinese counterparts in Beijing early next week.