White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters on Monday that the two sides haven’t set a date yet for a signing summit between Trump and Xi to end the dueling tariffs that are hurting both countries’ economies.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow also stated in an appearance on Fox news that the negotiations are “making great progress.”
However, last week the Chinese side reportedly canceled tentative plans to have Xi travel to President Trump’s Florida retreat Mar-a-Lago, at the beginning of April for a signing ceremony, causing some analysts to question whether an agreement is truly imminent. Trump has constantly touted progress in the talks, but warned that he would pull out of negotiations if he concluded he wasn’t getting a good enough deal.
“He’s going to make a deal if it’s in the best interest of America,” Sanders said. “If he doesn’t feel like it’s a good deal, it’s not worth just signing a piece of paper.”
Any deal negotiators reach is likely to address US concerns with what it sees as unfair trade practices by the Chinese government to advantage its domestic industries over foreign competitors. It is also expected to include provisions that would reduce the trade deficit between the two countries, most likely through Chinese government-directed purchases of US commodities, like soybeans and liquefied natural gas.
Hanging in the balance is a crucial relationship that accounted for $710bn in two-way trade in 2017, according to the Office of the US Trade Representative. That trade also supported about 911,000 US jobs in 2015, the latest year for which that data is available.
But the political stakes for the two leaders are nearly as great as the economic ones. And both Trump and Xi must be able to extract major concessions from the other in order for the negotiations to be successfully concluded, analysts say.
“If an agreement is finally reached between China and the United States in the trade war, it will certainly be a win-win outcome,” said Mei Xinyu, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation in Beijing. “If one side wins and the other side loses, an agreement cannot be reached.”
Trump is coming off a failed nuclear summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un last month, undercutting his claims of deal-making mastery.
The White House has been praising Trump’s decision to use tariffs on a wide array of Chinese goods to drag Beijing to the negotiating table. However, despite the president’s claims to the contrary, economists have found that the full burden of the tariffs is actually being passed on to US manufacturers and consumers in the form of higher prices, while US farmers are being punished by retaliatory sanctions levied by China.