20 Aug 2018
U.S. to Talk Trade with Mainland China but Expectations Should be Kept in Check
Larry Kudlow, chairman of the White House National Economic Council, has confirmed that the United States will host a mainland Chinese delegation in Washington during the week of 20 August. The two sides will have many issues to discuss regarding trade policy areas of concern. The U.S. delegation will be chaired by David Malpass, undersecretary for international affairs in the U.S. Treasury Department, while the mainland Chinese delegation will be led by Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen.
Trade policy experts in Washington note that while the Treasury Department has the lead on broader financial and economic issues the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is the lead agency for trade policy negotiations and generally chairs any such discussions. However, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is still focused on what is seen as a critical stage in the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations and is not scheduled to participate in the U.S.-China talks.
Although USTR will presumably be represented at these talks along with the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department Agriculture and other agencies, the lack of high-level USTR participation may limit the expectations for this round of discussions. These are the first talks in more than two months – since before the implementation of the tit-for-tat tariffs between the two countries began – so it remains a positive sign that any trade discussions are being held. Also worth mentioning is the fact that these talks will take place on the same week that USTR hosts a full week of hearings, with testimony expected from hundreds of petitioners, about the additional US$200 billion in Section 301 tariffs that have been proposed for a range of mainland Chinese products.