Top U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators met on Thursday at the White House as they faced a March 1 deadline to end a seven-month trade war.
Negotiations were led by U.S. Trade Amb. Robert Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He. The teams did not comment as they sat across from each other at a long table in the Indian Treaty Room. Lighthizer was joined for the high-stakes talks by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow as well as other officials.
The clock is ticking for negotiators to strike a deal before 90-day deadline set in December by President Donald Trump with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Argentina that would result in U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods rising from 10 to 25 percent. The longstanding trade tit-for-tat disrupted international markets and stressed the American agricultural industry.
Earlier this week, Trump struck an optimistic tone about talks with China and suggested the upcoming deadline is “not a magical date.”
“I can't tell you exactly about timing, but the date is not a magical date. A lot of things can happen. The real question will be will we raise the tariffs,” Trump said Tuesday. “So I know China would like not for that to happen. So I think they're trying to move fast so that doesn't happen. We'll see what happens.”
As the meetings kicked off on Thursday, the president issued a warning to American companies: lead on 5G technology and development of the first mass-market 5G network or "get left behind." His tweets indirectly referenced China.
The Trump administration has encouraged U.S. companies to step up their game on 5G technological development, which is largely dominated by China and Chinese company Huawei. The administration has expressed concerns of China dominating 5G telecom development in the U.S. and using that technology to spy on the U.S.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview with Fox Business Thursday that “real progress” had been made with the Chinese.
“I think real progress,” Pomepo said. “Not just on the trade issues, which matter – that is, the goods exchange – but on intellectual property protection, forced technology transfer, and importantly, enforcement around those. It’s one thing to write something on a piece of paper; it’s another thing to have enforcement mechanisms.”
The Trump administration issued tariffs on Chinese goods in reaction to what the U.S. claimed was intellectual property theft and unfair trade practices by the Chinese. In response, China issued tariffs on U.S. goods including soybeans, pork and aluminum.