USTR report: PRC pushing a litany of trade abuses.
A big week dawns in U.S.-China relations. At week’s end, President Donald Trump – the same Donald Trump who spent part of the weekend tweeting about Hillary Clinton (whom he beat in an election five months ago) getting early questions for a primary debate (from over a year ago) – will be meeting his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.
It will be the first meeting between the pair, and it’s a big one. President Xi leads the world’s second largest economy, which has grown exponentially in the past few years. Trump rode to the White House partially by promising to reshape America’s lopsided trade relationship with China.
So, will he?
Well, we’re probably not gonna find out immediately.
First, the president tweeted this.
The meeting next week with China will be a very difficult one in that we can no longer have massive trade deficits…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 30, 2017
Then on Friday, he and his cabinet rolled out a pair of executive orders: One announced a comprehensive review of current U.S. trade deficits, and the other instructed the different branches of government to collect anti-dumping and countervailing duties, approximately worth $3 billion, that are floating around out there.
And then the office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced its annual list of trade barriers, which needled China for a litany of perceived trade abuses. From Reuters:
USTR's criticisms are consistent with increasingly vocal concerns raised by international business groups about what they see as a worsening business climate for foreign firms in China, as well as China's goal to boost domestic manufacturing content in 10 sectors from robotics to biopharmaceuticals.
Okay, some executive orders, a tough tweet, and a critical report from USTR. But will it amount to much when Xi and Trump sit down? Quartz notes that this USTR report is basically the same one the Obama administration put out last year. And the New York Times reported on the painstaking detail that went into the crafting of Xi’s visit to Mar-a-Lago (Chinese diplomats worked through Trump’s son-in-law, because the see him as a “princeling,” which they appreciate).
Suffice to say: The Trump administratoin might play it safe. And we might not get much out of this first meeting.
Still, it will definitely be worth watching the news that surrounds it. Remember: These are the two largest individual economies in the world. And while the goods trade between the United States and China is weighted toward us buying lots of stuff from them, rebalancing that trade – as Trump has promised to do – is an incredibly complex task.
We’ll be watching that President Trump sticks to his promises, and we'll be watching this meeting closely.