Trade talks between the US and China for averting retaliatory import tariffs on each others’ goods made halting progress in Washington last week. The Trump administration’s maximalist demands for tearing down China’s current regulations on cross-border transfer of data and removal of restrictions on storing information in local servers, among others, led to a push back by Chinese negotiators, say analysts.
Despite claims by the US and Chinese leaders that the two sides made considerable progress during intense bilateral negotiations, no clear timelines have emerged until now for resolving the complex trade issues that cover tariff-reduction commitments by China, enforcement mechanisms, and removal of restrictions in electronic commerce.
“Significant work remains, and the principals, deputy ministers, and delegation members will be in continuous contact to resolve outstanding issues," the White House said in a statement issued on 5 April.
Even US President Donald Trump, who is known for making bombastic claims about the US’s ability to secure most beneficial outcomes for American ranchers and workers, has remained unusually circumspect. “We’ve been negotiating probably the two hardest points very successfully for our country," Trump claimed on Friday, without revealing any details, according to a news report in the Wall Street Journal on 5 April.
According to Xinhua news agency report on 4 April, China’s President Xi Jinping indicated that “new substantial progress has been made" suggesting that the negotiators should “keep up with the spirit of mutual respect" and “conclude the negotiations on the agreement text as soon as possible".
So far, the two sides have successfully resolved provisions relating to currency manipulation. China is ready to buy tens of billions of American goods, including advanced chips and semiconductors. The US delegation led by the US Trade Representative, Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, has placed a long laundry-list of demands that include rules on transfer of technology, removal of subsidies to the Chinese state-owned companies, implementation of stringent intellectual property provisions and enforcement rules.
Washington has repeatedly maintained that China must agree to inflexible enforcement mechanisms to avoid slippages in the implementation of commitments by China in the bilateral agreement. The USTR also does not want to agree to China’s demand that additional tariffs imposed on the Chinese goods worth more than $230 billion last year should be lifted in one go after the US-China agreements comes into effect.