By Jon Dougherty
(TNS) Few people outside of President Donald Trump’s inner circle gave him much of a chance of success in convincing China to work with him to reduce the massive trade deficit with the U.S. that country has enjoyed for decades.
After all, why should Beijing cut its own economic throat? But then Trump’s hardball approach — using tariffs to enforce his will and get a better deal for America and Americans — wound up being much more successful that anyone thought, and now China, who’s own economic growth has taken a substantial hit, is much more willing to talk.
As USA Features News reported last month, the administration’s trade team is preparing to sign a “Phase One” agreement with Beijing:
After more than two years of an escalating trade war with China, President Donald Trump is set to sign “Phase One” of a new trade agreement with Beijing in the White House next month, reports said Tuesday.
The president and Chinese officials will take part in a signing ceremony at the White House in Washington on Jan. 15, 2020.
Now, as reported exclusively by The Wall Street Journal, the two sides have come to further agreement to meet regularly — twice a year — to work out reforms and address issues related to trade and other economic sectors:
The U.S. and China have agreed to semiannual talks to push for reform in both nations and resolve disputes, reviving a format from previous administrations that Trump trade officials had once derided.
The effort will be headed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and, probably, Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, said an administration official and others briefed on the effort. It is set to be announced on Jan. 15 as part of the signing of a phase-one trade deal between the U.S. and China that includes Chinese purchases of American goods and some reforms to China’s economic system. The deal is the first full pause in the two-year trade war.
The new talks will be separate from negotiations over a second phase of the trade deal, which is expected to cover fundamental Chinese economic policies, including corporate subsidies and the activities of Chinese state-owned firms. President Trump recently said those negotiations may not be concluded until after the election.
The Mnuchin-Liu effort is aimed at discussing issues between the two nations and will represent a way for officials at all levels of the two governments to meet and develop deeper relationships. The trade talks, by contrast, have had a limited cast of participants from both governments.
“It’s a totally different process” from the trade negotiations, said an administration official.
The two sides are considering naming the process the Comprehensive Economic Dialogue. That’s the same name the administration used for failed talks in 2017 to get a quick trade deal in 100 days.
Then, Trump rejected what his economic team consisting of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer were old proposals China had made that Beijing simply repackaged and put a different bow on.
Still, though Trump removed Ross as chief trade negotiator at the time, the Commerce chief now says that the Phase One agreement contains some measures he put together.
“There are many trade initiatives being worked on by the Administration, and they will be announced when we are ready to announce them,” Ross said in a statement.
The Bush and Obama administrations had opened similar talks and dialogue with China, under different names. But they never produced any results and, since Trump is a results-oriented guy, he shut them down shortly after taking office because they served as little more than a gabfest.
Clearly, his initiatives aimed at first getting the Chinese to the trade negotiating table and then Beijing actually agreeing to various measures has turned out to be far more productive than what his immediate successors achieved. And it’ll be far better for our country.
So, whatever this new dialogue is called, either it, too, will produce results or Trump will simply tank them again, as he should. Process is not progress.
Trump will want to see China actually follow through on agreed-upon measures like buying more U.S. agricultural products, services, technology, and other things – or else Phase One will go away as well.
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