No plans to visit China for trade talks: US official

WASHINGTON • Trump administration officials have not made any new plans to send a team to China for face-to-face trade talks, although there is much work left to be done to reach a deal, White House trade adviser Clete Willems has said.

"We're talking to them (Chinese officials) every day, but no one's got any trip plans," Mr Willems told reporters on the sidelines of a Georgetown Law School event last Friday.

When asked about the prospect for future face-to-face meetings, he 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.

Advances in talks drove the White House to indefinitely delay hikes in tariffs on US$200 billion (S$272 billion) worth of Chinese imports that were set to kick in on March 2.

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

Members of Congress and the business community have expressed concerns that Mr Trump is so eager for a deal ahead of presidential elections next year that he may accept an agreement that falls short of addressing key structural issues.


Mr Willems said the notion that Mr Trump will settle for a "bad deal" is "totally inaccurate".

US Ambassador to China Terry Branstad told The Wall Street Journal last Friday that Washington and Beijing have yet to set a date for Mr Trump to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping - a sign that neither side sees a deal as imminent.

"Both sides agree that there has to be significant progress... before that happens," Mr Branstad told the newspaper in Beijing. "We're not there yet. But we're closer than we've been for a very long time."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 10, 2019, with the headline 'No plans to visit China for trade talks: US official'. Print Edition | Subscribe