WASHINGTON • China is "very spoiled" by trade wins over America, US President Donald Trump has said, as a top business delegation returned to America after high-stakes talks with Beijing.
The two days of talks that ended last Friday were aimed at forestalling momentum towards a looming conflict between the world's two largest economies, with both sides prepared to pull the trigger on tariffs that could affect trade in billions of dollars of goods.
However, the Trump administration's top economic advisers were returning home with little more than glaring proof of how far apart the US and China stand on trade issues. No time or place for further discussions was announced, with Mr Trump's threat to impose tariffs on as much as US$150 billion (S$200 billion) in Chinese goods still looming. Beijing had earlier shot back with a list of US$50 billion in targeted US goods.
The question is whether the US saw enough progress to delay Mr Trump's planned tariffs on Chinese imports. The duties can be imposed after a public comment period ends on May 22.
Mr Trump wants China to cut its annual trade surplus with the US by at least US$200 billion by the end of 2020, and not retaliate for US tariffs. China wants the US to stop an investigation into the country's acquisition of sensitive American technologies.
"Our high level delegation is on the way back from China, where they had long meetings with Chinese leaders and business representatives," Mr Trump wrote in a tweet last Friday.
AFTER THE TALKS
Our high level delegation is on the way back from China, where they had long meetings with Chinese leaders and business representatives... It is hard for China in that they have become very spoiled with US trade wins.
US PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP
The biggest achievement of the two-day talks that concluded on Friday was the constructive agreement between Beijing and Washington to keep discussing contentious trade issues, instead of continuing the two-way barrage of tariffs, which pretty much brought the two countries to the brink of a trade war.
He also indicated he would meet the delegation the next day. "We will be meeting tomorrow to determine the results, but it is hard for China in that they have become very spoiled with US trade wins," he added.
The delegation was returning to Washington to brief Mr Trump and "seek his decision on next steps", the White House said, adding that the administration had "consensus" for "immediate attention" to change the US-China trade and investment relationship.
Chinese state media struck an optimistic note on the trade talks.
"The biggest achievement of the two-day talks that concluded on Friday was the constructive agreement between Beijing and Washington to keep discussing contentious trade issues, instead of continuing the two-way barrage of tariffs, which pretty much brought the two countries to the brink of a trade war," wrote the English-language China Daily.
Experts had expressed doubts of a breakthrough, given the differing ideologies within the large US delegation. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was joined by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, as well as two senior White House officials - economic adviser Larry Kudlow and trade adviser Peter Navarro - and the American ambassador to China, Mr Terry Branstad.
Earlier last Friday, the US President hinted his administration would take action. "We will be doing something one way or the other with respect to what's happening in China. Let me say this: I have great respect for President Xi, that's why we're being so nice, and we have a great relationship, but we have to bring fairness into trade between the US and China, and we'll do it," he said in Washington.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, BLOOMBERG