Trump administration holds off on China travel plans for trade talks

WASHINGTON — Trump administration officials have not made any new plans to send a team to China for face-to-face trade talks, but negotiators have made progress, White House trade adviser Clete Willems said at an event on Friday.

“We’re talking to them (Chinese officials) every day, but no one’s got any trip plans,” Willems told reporters on the sidelines of a Georgetown Law School trade event in Washington. When asked about the prospect for future face-to-face meetings, Willems said “Maybe. But there are no plans right now.”

The governments of the world’s two largest economies have been locked in a tit-for-tat tariff battle for months as Washington presses Beijing to address long-standing concerns over Chinese practices and policies around industrial subsidies, technology transfers, market access and intellectual property rights.

The negotiations hold major implications for the global auto industry. The U.S. and China sold a combined 41 million light vehicles in 2018 — 23.7 million in China and 17.3 million in the U.S. 

Advances in talks drove the White House to indefinitely delay hikes in tariffs on $ 200 billion worth of Chinese imports that were set to kick in on March 2.

On Friday, Willems said the two countries had made progress in talks but that there was still much more left to be done. He declined to say whether Trump would set a new tariff deadline should the talks stall.

Members of Congress and the business community have expressed concerns that Trump is eager for a deal and may accept an agreement that falls short of addressing structural problems with China’s economic model so he can announce a win ahead of presidential elections next year.

But Willems pushed back against such concerns, saying that the notion that Trump will settle for a “bad deal” with China is “totally inaccurate.”

He said Trump was determined to push for a comprehensive deal that addressed structural issues with China’s policies. 

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