A trade deal with China is ‘miles and miles’ away, Commerce secretary says

Dive Brief:

  • A delegation of roughly 30 Chinese trade negotiators will visit the White House next week to resume trade negotiations, but U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC Thursday, “we’re miles and miles from getting a resolution.”
  • The next round of negotiations taking place next week is the result of a 90-day delay of further tariff hikes that runs out March 1. After that, tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods will increase from 10% to 25% if the parties cannot reach an agreement.
  • Ross said negotiators have “quite a little bit of time” before March 1 to figure out if a deal is possible. Courtney Rickert McCaffrey, manager of thought leadership in A.T. Kearney’s Global Business Policy Council, told Supply Chain Dive in December the March 1 timeline is “incredibly ambitious.”

Dive Insight:

Ross said it shouldn’t be surprising a deal hasn’t yet taken shape since “trade is very complicated.” He added negotiations go far beyond quantities of fuel and other commodities, and the real differences are in “structural reforms” in the Chinese economy and “enforcement mechanisms.”

Though China has made some concessions in agreeing to purchase more U.S. agricultural products, the White House has made it clear the issues of intellectual property and technology transfer are the tougher and more important issues.

In December, the Trump administration said in a said in a statement that these negotiations would revolve around “structural changes with respect to forced technology transfer, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers, cyber intrusions and cyber theft, services and agriculture.”

In his comments, Ross left wide open the possibility that the two parties could indeed reach an impasse, allowing tariffs to rise.

24 January 2019 | Emma Cosgrove | Supply Chain Dive