The latest round of US-China trade talks may have hit an impasse, raising doubts about the chances of an early trade deal between the world’s two leading economies, Chinese official media reported on Thursday. Unlike the previous negotiations, the 10th round of high-level economic and trade talks, which concluded here on Wednesday, had fewer details about specific discussions and results, state-run Global Times reported. That left many to wonder whether the two economic powers have hit an impasse in the tough talks and whether a trade agreement that would end their year-long trade tussle is still within reach as it had appeared to be, it said.
Though there remain some sticky points and tougher obstacles as they approach the end of the extensive talks, one thing remains very clear: Both sides voiced commitment to the talks, Chinese analysts said. And some even argued that fewer details mean they are closer to a deal.
Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, who is Beijing’s chief negotiator led the Chinese delegation during the China-US comprehensive economic dialogue held on Tuesday and Wednesday. He co-hosted the talks with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
The 11th round of the talks is expected to be held next week in Washington.
The world’s two leading economies have exchanged tariffs on USD 360 billion worth of goods since President Donald Trump launched a trade war last year demanding that China should reduce the USD 375 billion trade deficit.
Trump also called for verifiable measures for protection of intellectual property rights (IPR), technology transfer and more access to American goods to Chinese markets.
He has already increased the tariffs on over USD 250 billion Chinese exports to US and threatened to extend tariffs on USD 200 billion Chinese imports to 25 percent. China too slapped reciprocal tariffs on some US exports to the country.
Trump recently hinted that Chinese President Xi Jinping could visit the US soon setting off speculation that both countries could work out a trade deal by next month.
The White House in a statement on Wednesday said that “discussions remain focused toward making substantial progress on important structural issues and rebalancing the US-China trade relationship”.
“This is very vague and shows that some tough issues still have to be discussed,” said Huo Jianguo, vice chairman of the China Society for World Trade Organisation Studies.
“I think it reflects the fact that we are at the final stage of the negotiations and things are a lot more difficult at this stage,” he said.
Media reports suggest that the two sides are still discussing key issues on structural issues, such as the US accusation of unfair subsidies in China, a mechanism to verify compliance and what to do with the tariffs the two have already imposed on hundreds of billions of dollar’s worth of each other’s goods.
Chinese officials argue that the compliance mechanism being insisted by US overrides the World Trade Organisation mechanism and make it redundant.
“I think both sides are still eager to reach an agreement, but they also have to be more cautious because things could change,” Huo said.