In March, US President Donald Trump famously tweeted: "Trade wars are good and easy to win." But the Trump administration is in the process of discovering that at least when it comes to negotiating with China, this is nearer the opposite of the truth. Chinese trade negotiators left Washington after a second round of talks over the weekend with a pledge by the Trump administration to hold off on imposing US$150 billion (S$201 billion) worth of tariffs on Chinese goods, without making any meaningful trade concessions in return.
Trump administration officials had, unrealistically, pushed for China to reduce its US$375 billion annual trade surplus with the United States by US$200 billion by 2020. Last Friday , the director of the White House Economic Council Larry Kudlow claimed that China had indeed offered to do this. But this was immediately denied by the Chinese. What emerged at the end of the talks on Sunday was a short joint statement which said simply that China will "significantly increase" its purchases of US goods and services, specifically mentioning only US agriculture and energy exports. On the key issue of intellectual property rights, the statement said, vaguely, that "China will advance relevant amendments to its laws and regulations in this area, including the patent law".