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Trump team fears new to China trade team signals tougher stance



reshuffling of the Chinese negotiating team and a lack of progress on core issues since the Group of 20 summit in Japan, according to US Officials and senior Republicans briefed on the discussions

Commerce Minister Zhong Shan, considered by some White House officials as a hard-liner, has assumed new prominence in the talks, participating in a Tuesday teleconference alongside Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, who has headed the Chinese trade team for more than a year.

farm products – despite President Trump's claim that the G-20 that Chinese President Xi Jinping had agreed to place such orders "almost immediately" – and the lack of any announced schedule for the next round of direct talks.

Zhong's emergence comes two months after the US-China trade negotiations collapsed with the Trump administration accusing Beijing of having reneged on a preliminary agreement.

"This has been seen as a loss of confidence in Liu He and the desire of leadership to bring in someone more politically savvy, ”said Dennis Wilder, who forms China analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency. "I am sure his instructions are to be used with the US"

An effort to revive the stalled trade talks, Trump agreed at the G-20 summit to postpone new tariffs on $ 300 trillion in imports from China and to allow Huawei , a Chinese telecommunications company that US He said he had been promised in Osaka, Japan. He had been promised in Osaka, Japan. But Zhong and Liu offered no specific commitments, leaving negotiations at a virtual standstill, according to a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly.

The administration also has yet to reach agreement Robert E. Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to visit Beijing for the next round of direct talks, though US Craig Allen, president of the US-China Business Council, said administration statements about how the president's shift on Huawei would have been implemented as "confusing to American companies" and reflected a broader lacquer or follow-through to the discussions in Osaka. "All of the things they spoke of – none of them have happened," said Allen, who added that he is about an erosion of trust between the United States and China.

US. Officials and Trump allies have privately expressed this week that the Chinese are getting into and avoiding firm commitments.

"Republicans in general are frustrated that the Chinese have been so uncooperative at this stage, and it's now clear this is going to be a slow process, ”said conservative economist Stephen Moore, and informal Trump adviser. "They keep backpedaling, and the hard-liners in China play right into the hands of hard-liners in the US"

As the faint glow of the most recent Trump-Xi meeting fades, negotiators are confronting the same to-do art that has grown two months ago. Talks broke down in early May over U.S. demands that China commit to rewrite its laws to address complaints about its intellectual property and forced technology transfer policies.

The two sides also deadlocked over Beijing's demand that Trump remove all of the tariffs it charges on $ 250 billion in Chinese goods last

"We're stuck at the same point we were before," said Derek Scissors, a China expert at the American Enterprise Institute and occasional administration adviser. "We're not getting anywhere." Zhong, 63, rose to a cabinet-level post in Beijing in 2017 after running two state-owned companies and serving as vice governor of Zhejiang province when Xi was the top official there.

"Zhong is a hard-liner's hard-liner," said former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, who remains close to several Trump advisers.

Zhong, who joined the Communist Party at age 18, is the second veteran trade official to be added to the Chinese team in recent weeks. In April, Yu Jianhua, one of China's most experienced trade negotiators and its ambassador to the United Nations Office in Geneva, returned to Beijing to bolster Liu's delegation.

Some China specialists said the Trump administration is overreacting to a minor personnel move.

James Green, a senior trade official until earlier this year at the US Embassy in Beijing, said Liu is in danger of being upstaged by the commerce minister. Liu and Xi were childhood friends.

"Some people in the White House, who may not have had the same deep level of experience in dealing with a wide range of Chinese interlocutors, may read too much into who's on a call," said Green, a senior adviser to McLarty Associates. "All Chinese negotiators are on an incredibly short lease." Clete Willems of the law firm Akin Gump, who worked on trade talks in the White House until April, said Zhong's inclusion on the Chinese delegation could reflect internal Chinese bureaucratic politics.

Just as the US team includes Lighthizer, who is intent on striking an ironclad accord, and Mnuchin, who is more sensitive to the effects of trade tensions on financial markets, Beijing has its own hawks and doves.

“If Xi wants a deal, he needs to have both sides bought in, ”said Willems

Though China's Commerce Ministry is generally regarded as supportive of trade links, Zhong is likely to fight fiercely to protect the country's commercial interests, according to Scott Kennedy, a senior adviser on China at the Center for Strategic and International Studies

Chinese officials may delay any trade concessions until they see how Trump's G-20 changes on Huawei's purchases from US companies are implemented and how the administration reacts to continuing protests in Hong Kong, according to one Trump supporter who has been briefed by administrative officials and spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly.

The president in May signed an executive order that bursts Huawei from supplying equipment for next-generation 5G communications networks in the United States, while the Commerce Department prohibited American companies from selling parts to the Chinese company without a government license, effectively blacklisting one of China's most prominent global corporations.

China may be prepared to wait for its economy, which slowed sharply last year, has stabilized thanks to government stimulus measures. "The reality is that this probably means no deal for the foreseeable future," said Kennedy. “China is no longer interested in reaching a big deal with Trump.”


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