Trump trade team offers two different perspectives on U.S.-China trade deal.
The terms of a U.S.-China trade deal have been handed off to President Xi Jinping for consideration with a signing summit likely in “late March,” said White House Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow on CNBC Thursday. However, United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer testified before the House Ways & Means Committee Wednesday that “much still needs to be done” before a U.S.-China trade agreement can be reached.
Though both members of Trump’s trade team praised U.S.-China negotiations as having already achieved great progress in advancing structural changes in Chinese trade practices, Kudlow’s comments indicate that the heavy lifting for the trade deal is complete.
“The Chinese side has to come back and agree. I believe they will, and I believe there will be a meeting in late March down in Mar-a-Lago, but we have to wait for their decision,” said Kudlow. “We’ve never ever come this far with China trade, and, again, the outlook for a deal is very positive.”
During his appearance on CNBC, Kudlow also addressed alleged tension between Lighthizer and President Donald Trump, calling rumors that the president and his lead negotiator for U.S.-China trade talks are not in sync “just untrue.”
Trump’s decision to cancel a March 1 tariff increase on Chinese imports and his optimistic tweets regarding trade talks may signal that he is willing to accept a weaker trade deal than Lighthizer, a consummate China trade hawk.
I am pleased to report that the U.S. has made substantial progress in our trade talks with China on important structural issues including intellectual property protection, technology transfer, agriculture, services, currency, and many other issues. As a result of these very......— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 24, 2019
....productive talks, I will be delaying the U.S. increase in tariffs now scheduled for March 1. Assuming both sides make additional progress, we will be planning a Summit for President Xi and myself, at Mar-a-Lago, to conclude an agreement. A very good weekend for U.S. & China!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 24, 2019
Should Trump prioritize a quick and easy deal focused on increasing U.S. exports to China over meaningful structural changes, there would indeed be cause for strife between the president and Lighthizer – and cause for great disappointment in this negotiation process as a whole.