In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, from behind left, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang and China’s Commerce Minister Zhong Shan applaud as they witness officials exchange memorandum of understanding during a signing ceremony in Beijing, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. U.S. and Chinese companies on Wednesday signed business deals the two sides valued at $9 billion during a visit by President Donald Trump in a tradition aimed at blunting criticism of Beijing’s trade practices. (Rao Aimin/Xinhua via AP)
As a result of an agreement reached by Chinese and American trade negotiators on a “framework” for addressing trade imbalances the U.S. trade war with China is “on hold.”
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and President Donald Trump’s Director of the National Economic Council, Larry Kudlow, tell us the U.S. and China agreed to drop their tariff threats while they work on a wider trade agreement.
During an interview with Margaret Brennan on today’s edition of CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” Kudlow said terrific progress was made during the trade talks:
BRENNAN: Have we avoided a trade war or is the threat of tariffs still on the table?
KUDLOW: You know I think we’ve made a lot of progress and perhaps even more progress than we might have thought when we went to Beijing a couple of weeks ago. And the communique makes that very clear that we’re going to substantially reduce the U.S. trade gap. I mean here’s the deal. We want China to open up markets, lower tariffs, lower nontariff barriers, give us a chance. We also want China however to change their behavior with respect to technology transfers and also the theft of intellectual property rights. Now are we going to get everything? I don’t know, but I will say this we’re making terrific progress and I think the meetings here in Washington were very positive. And the president himself has become very optimistic and supportive.
BRENNAN: But did he take that threat of 150 billion dollars in tariffs off the table?
KUDLOW: Well look, I don’t think we’re at that stage yet. There’s a lot of numbers being thrown around 200 billion this is- we’re not at that detail point.
[. . .]
KUDLOW: And look we want– the president insist that we lower the trade deficit. But again, the details will be down the road- remember these things are not so precise. I mean macroeconomics plays a big role. But our view is China must open up. They must become fair traders. They have not been. The rest of the world knows they have not been and China has got to stop the theft of intellectual property and the forced transfer of technology. Those are our family jewels and we can make deals on this I believe we can make arrangements that has not yet been completed. But the early going- I mean tons of energy coming, tons of agriculture, tons more manufacturing. That’s all in this communique.
[. . .]
BRENNAN: So no specific agreement yet?
KUDLOW: What you’re getting here is- the negotiations are proceeding very well. We’re on the same page, too early for exact precise details. Maybe I got ahead of the curve but the number 200 billion deficit reduction, which is something that President likes, has been around by all the people on both sides. But it’s too soon to lock that in. I just think the direction here is the key. And I just want to add, if we can get success here. If China opens up, if we move to a much more balanced fair trading- this is going to be terrific for the American economy.
You can read the transcript of the Kudlow’s entire interview with Brennan here.
During his interview with George Stephanopoulos on today’s edition of ABC’s “This Week,” Kudlow said there was not yet an agreement for a trade deal:
KUDLOW: Look it, here’s the key point, if I may, in the communique there was a consensus on taking effective measures to substantially reduced the the United States’s trade deficit in goods with China. That’s the key point.
And here’s the second key point, they are offering to make structural reforms, such as lower tariffs and lowering non-tariff barriers, which will permit us to export billions and billions more goods to China. That’s the elementary point. That’s the key point.
These numbers, you can’t predict these numbers. I mean, these are macroeconomic things, depending on conditions. But what I want to say is, we made a lot of progress here in Washington and built on what happened in China a couple weeks back. The president is in a very positive mood about this. So, I myself, am very encouraged, because, look, at the end of the day, George, growth, this is good for growth. This helps our farmers, this helps our ranchers, this helps our businesses.
I actually think it’s good for Chinese growth, too.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you are encouraged, but just to be clear, is there an agreement or not?
KUDLOW: There’s no agreement for a deal. We never anticipated one. There’s a communique between the two great countries, that’s all. And in that communique, you can see where we’re going next. For example, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross going over to China. He’s going to be looking into a number of areas where we’re going to have greatly, significant increases — energy, for example, LNG, for example, agriculture, manufacturing.
Again, as the tariffs come down and the barriers come down, that gives us an opportunity for greatly increased export sales. And, you know, you’ve got to trust, but verify — Ronald Reagan taught me that a long time ago — but I like the direction we’re going in.
During an interview with Mike Wallace on today’s edition of “Fox News Sunday,” Secretary Mnuchin said China and the U.S. would keep talking about measures under which China would import more energy and agricultural commodities from the United States to close the $335 billion annual trade deficit with China, as well as structural changes to China’s trade policies to ensure that we have a fair opportunity to compete there, and protections for technology:
MNUCHIN: Well, Chris, I’m pleased to report that we have made very meaningful progress and we agreed on a framework, which is important to understand. And the framework includes their agreement to substantially reduce the trade deficit by increasing their purchases of goods. We also discussed very important structural issues that they are going to make in their economy to make sure that we have a fair ability to compete there, and also protections about technology, which have been very important to the president.
WALLACE: But China and one of the big things the president has said is he wants them to reduce the deficit by $200 billion, by $200 billion worth of U.S. goods, they reportedly refused to agree to that specific target. There’s nothing about a specific target in the statement. One, have they refused to agree to a target, and is there still the possibility of a trade war?
MNUCHIN: Well, Chris, we’re putting the trade war on hold. So, right now, we are — we have agreed to put the tariffs on hold while we try to execute the framework. The president has been very clear since the first meeting with President Xi in Mar-a-Lago, that it is — we are going to reduce the trade deficit. We have an agreement with China that they will substantially agree to it.
I would just comment that, ultimately, these are not government to government transactions. It’s not a giant purchase order with us. We are immediately going to follow this up with Secretary Ross going there with very hard commitments in agriculture where we expect to see a very big increase, 35 to 45 percent increases in agriculture this year alone. In energy, doubling the energy purchases.
I think that you could see $50 billion, $60 billion a year of energy purchases over the next three to five years. And, strategically, that’s very important for us and very important for them.
If your reaction is the same as mine, China always cheats on trade so what about President Reagan’s “trust, but verify.” We will have to see what is in the final deal, but as Mnuchin points out we can always go back to the tariffs if China doesn’t live up to its commitments:
WALLACE: But just to lock down two points, sir — one, no specific target of $200 billion?
MNUCHIN: Chris, we have specific targets. I’m not going to publicly disclose what they are. They go industry by industry and as I said, not only do we have targets, but ultimately, this is about industry being able to have hard contracts and deliver these goods.
WALLACE: And as far as the president’s threat, first, of $50 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods and $150 billion, those are all on hold?
MNUCHIN: They are. And the president had a very productive meeting with the vice premier in the Oval Office, with all of us and the vice president. He heard these commitments himself and he can always decide to put the tariffs back on if China doesn’t go through with their commitments.
You can read the Transcript of Mnuchin’s interview with Wallace here.
The Trump administration may be able to claim “terrific progress” in the trade talks, but the devil still remains in the details. We are still a long way from a verifiable trade deal with China that corrects the trade deficit, stops China’s theft of intellectual property and opens China’s markets for more U.S. produvts.