China's written response to U.S. demands for trade reforms is unlikely to trigger a breakthrough at talks between Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping later this month, a senior Trump administration official told Reuters yesterday.
Beijing provided the Trump administration with its document earlier this week, responding to a months-long request from U.S. officials for commitments that would jumpstart trade talks, Reuters reported on Wednesday in an exclusive report.
It was a good sign that Beijing had put something in writing after months of declining to do so, the official said, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity.
The Chinese document included 142 items divided into three categories: issues the Chinese are willing to negotiate for further action, issues they are already working on and issues they consider off limits, the official said.
The items on Beijing's non-negotiable list were unacceptable to the United States, the official said, and the overall list deserved to be looked at with skepticism in part because China has previously made pledges on economic and trade reforms that it had not fulfilled.
He cited as an example a past offer by China to loosen restrictions on U.S. ownership of Chinese companies, and said that China had subsequently failed to follow through with licenses for U.S. companies.
U.S. officials were still studying the list, which the official said was received on Monday night.
China and the US have resumed high-level trade talks, Gao Feng, spokesperson for China's Commerce Ministry, announced at a press conference yesterday. The two sides have been in "close contact" to implement the consensus reached by the presidents of the two countries during a phone conversation on November 1, he said.
Trump has imposed tariffs on US$250 billion of Chinese imports to force concessions from Beijing on the list of demands that would change the terms of trade between the two countries. China has responded with import tariffs on U.S. goods. Duties on US$200 billion in Chinese goods is set to increase to 25 percent from 10 percent on January 1.
Trump has also threatened to impose tariffs on all remaining Chinese imports, about US$267 billion worth, if Beijing fails to address U.S. demands.
Another source who has been briefed on the status of U.S.-China negotiations said talks on trade had yet to advance in line with the more positive rhetoric. The person said China's offer was "a rehash" of previous commitments articulated by Xi.
One option for a deal, the person said, would be for Washington to hold off on raising tariff rates in return for some short-term actions by the Chinese while the two sides negotiate thornier, longer-term issues.
Trump's chorus of economic advisers continue to provide different views on China.
Peter Navarro, a trade adviser who has advocated harsh measures against China, was admonished publicly this week by economic adviser Larry Kudlow for "freelancing" with recent remarks in which he urged Wall Street not to interfere on the issue.
Despite that, Navarro continued to play a role in trade policy discussions at the White House, the administration official said.