President Trump was ambivalent about this week’s trade talks with China, saying “I don’t know if they’re going to make a deal,” even as China hinted at goodwill purchases of U.S. farm exports. Meanwhile, the White House said China, the second-largest economy in the world, ought to shed its status at the WTO as a developing nation and to play by the same rules as the United States and other industrial nations.
“I think that China will probably say, ‘Let’s wait. It’s 14, 15 months until the election,’” in hopes of getting a better deal, Trump responded on Friday when a reporter said the president did not sound optimistic about the talks in Shanghai. In that case, the trade war would run past November 2020. Senior Chinese and U.S. trade officials are scheduled to meet face-to-face on Tuesday for the first time since negotiations broke down in May.
“Maybe they will, maybe they won’t [make a deal]. I don’t care, because we’re taking in tens of billions of dollars worth of tariffs. And the farmers are happy because I gave them $16 billion out of the tariffs,” said Trump, referring to payments to mitigate the impact of the trade war on U.S. agriculture. In fact, tariffs are paid directly by importers, say groups such as the Tax Policy Center.
“I don’t think, personally, China would sign a deal if I had a 2-percent chance of losing the election,” said Trump.
After weeks on the sidelines, China intends to buy U.S. farm exports as a gesture of goodwill on the eve of trade talks, said Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times, on social media over the weekend. “Chinese side sees the purchase as showing goodwill to the US side. Face-to-face trade talks will restart on Tuesday and it is hoped the goodwill will be reciprocated by the US side.” The Global Times publishes under the aegis of the People’s Daily, the newspaper of the Communist Party.
Before the trade war, China was the No. 1 customer for U.S. food and ag exports. This year, it is expected to rank fifth.
A state-run Chinese broadcaster cited government sources in saying China was interested in soybeans, cotton, pork and sorghum, with some purchases being made in the past week, reported Reuters. No major sales have been reported in recent days by exporters, who are required by law to notify USDA of sales of 100,000 tonnes or more of grain.
Trump signed a memorandum declaring that “China and too many other countries” designate themselves as developing countries at the WTO because trade rules are less stringent for that category of nations than for the industrialized countries, such as the United States, who rank as developed nations. The memorandum says the United States will press for a change in status for nations such as China. If there is not action within 90 days, the U.S. trade representative’s office will publish a list of offenders and no longer treat the nations at the WTO as if they are developing nations.
WTO negotiations have been bedeviled for years by disagreement over how to categorize its members and the rules that should apply to them. In the early days of the Doha round of WTO talks, there were complaints that rising economic powers such as Brazil, China, Russia and India demanded greater trade liberalization by industrial nations than they were willing to make themselves.
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