Trump's son-in-law Kushner enlarges role in China talks

Mr Jared Kushner, who is married to Ms Ivanka Trump, is said to have been in contact with China's envoy to the US.
Mr Jared Kushner, who is married to Ms Ivanka Trump, is said to have been in contact with China's envoy to the US.

WASHINGTON • United States President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner has added another role to his long list of White House duties: US-China trade negotiator.

This comes as Washington and Beijing try to reach an initial agreement to avoid new US tariffs on Dec 15.

People familiar with the trade talks said Mr Kushner, who helped bring the US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA) to fruition, has increased his direct involvement in the negotiations with China over the past two weeks.

While the talks have made some progress, these people said the two sides have not yet agreed on the extent to which the US will remove existing tariffs on Chinese goods and on specific commitments by China to increase purchases of US agriculture products.

A White House official confirmed Mr Kushner's involvement, but declined to provide specific details on the influence he has had on the negotiations.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said Mr Kushner recently met Mr Cui Tiankai, the Chinese ambassador to the US.

The two have met multiple times since Mr Trump took office, establishing a kind of back-channel relationship, trade experts said.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been leading negotiations with Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He for the past two years over a range of US complaints about China's trade and subsidy practices, including the forced transfer of American technology to Chinese firms.

The White House official said: "Jared has been engaged in the process from the beginning in full coordination and in support of ambassador Lighthizer's and secretary Mnuchin's efforts."

Mr Kushner played a pivotal role in the later stages of US trade talks with Canada and Mexico last year to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, helping to resolve final differences.

Mr Lighthizer said the USMCA deal "would not have happened if it wasn't for Jared".

Former Mexican foreign minister Luis Videgaray said Mr Kushner patched up the negotiations more than once after they fell apart.

Mr Kushner, who is married to Mr Trump's daughter Ivanka, has taken on many challenges during the past three years, including trying to develop a Middle East peace plan, working on changes to US immigration policies and advising Mr Trump on dealing with opioid addiction. However, sealing a deal with China could prove daunting.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, speaking to Reuters on Tuesday, rejected any deadlines for a deal and launched a fresh attack on Chinese telecom equipment giant Huawei, accusing it of telling suppliers to move operations overseas to skirt US sanctions.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 05, 2019, with the headline 'Trump's son-in-law Kushner enlarges role in China talks'. Subscribe