- The U.S. and China began a two-day round of trade talks Monday, ahead of a tariff increase from 10% to 25% on $200 billion worth of goods from China scheduled for March 2.
- A U.S. delegation, led by deputy U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Jeffrey Gerrish, traveled to China, along with officials from the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, State and Treasury, according to a statement from USTR.
- The discussions mark the first face-to-face talks since the presidents of the two nations agreed at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina last year to postpone a tariff increase scheduled for Jan. 1 and negotiate underlying trade issues for a 90-day period.
Businesses watching the trade negotiations shouldn't expect any major breakthroughs or concrete outcomes on tariffs from this two-day meeting between U.S. and Chinese government leaders.
The talks mostly involve mid-level officials, although Chinese Vice Premier Liu He reportedly stopped by. Notably absent from the negotiations is USTR Robert Lighthizer, who Trump appointed to lead the negotiations. Bloomberg reported senior-level discussions are expected later this month.
But the fact that negotiations are happening at all — and more than seven weeks ahead of the March 1 deadline — is a sign the two nations seem willing to find common ground, rather than slapping tariffs on one another in a retaliatory fight.
A spokesman for China's foreign ministry said China is willing to resolve trade issues with the U.S. "on equal footing," CNBC reported.
The U.S. has expressed similar optimism and willingness to strike a fair deal. "I really believe they want to make a deal," Donald Trump told reporters at the White House Sunday. Last Thursday, he tweeted, "we are doing well in various Trade Negotiations currently going on," but emphasized China and other countries' trade imbalances with the U.S. are unfair.
Willingness to negotiate and the ability to resolve, however, are two separate issues. What the U.S. wants to iron out with China is not simply a matter of tariffs or no tariffs, but rather "structural changes" related to intellectual property, technology transfer and other trade barriers.
Analysts interviewed by Supply Chain Dive said these issues are deep-seated, and the designated 90 days to negotiate is not nearly enough to resolve them.
So far, neither the U.S. nor China has revealed any further details on how the negotiations are unfolding or whether they have reached any incremental agreements. In addition, neither country has officially announced if and when the next round of trade discussions would take place.