WASHINGTON: As trade talks resume between China and the United States, President Donald Trump’s advisers are confident he can portray his stance against Beijing as a strength in the 2020 election, despite making concessions and having no deal in sight.
Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed in Japan last month to another truce in the year-long trade war between the world’s two largest economies, thanks largely to Trump’s promise not to impose new tariffs on Chinese goods and to ease restrictions on technology company Huawei Technologies Co Ltd.
The agreement in Osaka kick-started talks that had been stalled since May. Chinese and U.S. negotiators spoke by phone on Tuesday and are discussing a face-to-face meeting in the future.
But no deadline has been set for the process to conclude, leaving the possibility of a protracted negotiation that lasts well into next year and Trump’s re-election fight.
“I think you’re into 2020 before there’s any resolution to this,” said Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief White House strategist, who has advocated for a tough stance against Beijing.
He applauded Trump’s decision to take new tariffs off the table and be flexible on Huawei because it got the talks between the two countries going again.
“I think it will help him politically because it’s the reality of the world that we live in,” Bannon said.
The United States wants China to change what it considers unfair trade practices including intellectual property theft, forced technology transfer by U.S. companies to their Chinese counterparts, support for state-owned enterprises and currency manipulation.
Trump has imposed 25% tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods and has pledged only to accept a deal with Beijing that includes structural reforms to the way China does business.
Beijing’s retaliatory tariffs last year on imports of U.S. agricultural goods have struck a blow at U.S. farmers, a constituency that helped propel Trump to victory in 2016.
But Trump’s bashing of China as a presidential candidate in 2016 delighted his crowds, and he is likely to highlight his tariff policy as a sign of toughness in 2020.
Washington and Beijing were close to completing a deal in May when Chinese officials balked at requirements that it change its laws to implement reforms, U.S. officials have said. While other U.S. leaders have pressured China to change its business practices, Trump’s negotiating team arguably brought Beijing closer than it had ever come to an agreement to change.