(Bloomberg) — The U.S. and China have made little progress
so far during trade talks in Beijing, leaving much work to be
done before President Donald Trump and his counterpart Xi
Jinping look to seal a deal at a yet-to-be scheduled summit,
according to people familiar with discussions.
In closed-door sessions, the sides have failed to narrow
the gap around structural reforms to China’s economy that the
U.S. has requested, even as both seek to avoid an increase in
tariffs after March 1, according to three U.S. and Chinese
officials who asked not to be identified because the talks were
U.S. stocks declined on news of scant progress, with the S&P
500 Index down 0.3 percent at 10:47 a.m. in New York.
On Thursday, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer
and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met with counterparts
including Chinese Vice Premier Liu He for the first of two days
of high-level talks.
The U.S. has not relented on demands for China to dial back
government subsidies for state-owned enterprises and improve
corporate governance, one of the people said, an extremely
sensitive issue that is seen as a non-starter for Chinese
The hurdles raise questions about whether negotiators can
meet Trump’s criteria for pushing back the March 1 deadline for
more than doubling tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods. On
Tuesday he said he was open to doing so if the two countries
were close to a deal that addresses deep structural changes to
China’s economic and trade policies.
The lack of progress so far signaled to China that it would
take a meeting between Trump and Xi to get a deal done, the
White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said on Tuesday that
Trump wants to meet Xi “very soon.”
A meeting date between Trump and Xi has not been set and it
is unlikely the pair can meet before the March 1 deadline. Trump
is considering pushing back the deadline for imposition of
higher tariffs on Chinese imports by 60 days, Bloomberg News
reported late Wednesday.
When asked if the administration was considering delaying
the deadline, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said no
decision has been made. Xi is due to meet with Mnuchin and
Lighthizer on Friday, he said.
Negotiators in Beijing “are soldiering on” and the “vibe”
is good, Kudlow said on Fox News, adding that he was briefed by
U.S. officials earlier Thursday. “They are going to be meeting
with President Xi tomorrow, which is a very good sign. They are
moving through all of the issues. They are getting the job
Kudlow later told reporters at the White House that he’s
“cautiously optimistic” on the outcome of the talks with China.