WASHINGTON — The Trump administration and Chinese negotiators resumed high-level talks Friday aimed at resolving a trade dispute that has escalated uncertainty for corporations, unsettled investors and posed a threat to the global economy.
For a second day, a Chinese team led by Vice Premier Liu met with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and other American officials. After the talks conclude, Liu is scheduled to meet President Donald Trump at the White House on Friday afternoon.
Trump is set to raise tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports if the two sides can’t reach a deal by March 2. But recently he has said he’d consider extending the deadline if negotiators are nearing an agreement.
Myron Brilliant, head of international affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, expressed doubt Friday that any meaningful breakthrough would be achieved now.
“I don’t expect to see a final deal done this week, but we are seeing progress,” he said.
Still, Brilliant, who has spoken with both sides, said he is encouraged because the negotiators aren’t merely exchanging viewpoints but instead, in his words, “putting things to text … They’re getting closer to getting an agreement.”
The world’s two biggest economies are sparring over U.S. allegations that Beijing uses predatory tactics in a drive to make Chinese companies world leaders in such advanced industries as robotics and driverless cars. Those tactics, the Trump administration argues, include cyber-theft, the unfair subsidizing of state-owned Chinese companies, the use of regulations to hobble China’s foreign competitors and pressure on American companies to hand over technology in exchange for access to the Chinese market.
The Trump administration says the Chinese have repeatedly failed to live up to past commitments to open their markets and treat foreign companies more fairly.
The U.S. has slapped 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese imports and 10 percent tariffs on $200 billion worth; the tariffs on the $200 billion are scheduled to rise to 25 percent if there’s no deal.
The Chinese have lashed back with import taxes on $110 billion in U.S. goods, heavily aimed at soybeans and other agricultural products in an attempt to put pressure on Trump supporters in the U.S. farm belt.
The conflict has rattled markets. It’s also fanned uncertainty among businesses that must decide where to invest and whether Trump’s tariffs — which raise the cost of imports on the target list — will last long enough to justify replacing Chinese suppliers with those from countries not subject to the tariffs.
The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have all downgraded their forecasts for the global economy, citing the heightened trade tensions.
Brilliant said the two countries have yet to bridge their differences over nettlesome issues such as the forced technology transfer.
He said the Chamber wants to see an end to the tit-for-tat tariffs between Washington and Beijing. But he also said American businesses are demanding a deal that will bring about lasting change in Chinese behavior.
“We simply can’t go back to business as it was before,” Brilliant told reporters. The Chinese, he said, have “got to deliver the goods.”