White House Upbeat on Beijing Trade Talks
A top White House economic adviser is expressing confidence in the current U.S.-China trade negotiations in Beijing.
“The vibe in Beijing is good,” National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told reporters Thursday at the White House.
Kudlow provided few details but said the U.S. delegation led by Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is “covering all ground” ahead of their expected meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping tomorrow.
“That’s a very good sign and they’re just soldiering on, so I like that story,” Kudlow said, “And I will stay with the phrase, the vibe is good.”
Negotiators are working to strike a deal by March 1, to avoid a rise in U.S. tariffs on $200 million worth of Chinese goods from 10 percent to 25 percent. President Donald Trump suggested earlier this week that if talks are seeing signs of progress, that deadline could be pushed back.
When asked Thursday if there would be an extension, Kudlow said, “No such decision has been made so far.”
Analyst William Reinsch, a former president of the National Foreign Trade Council and senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says the talks are complicated by the three main areas under negotiation.
“Market access, which I think is well on the way to completion. Some Chinese offers on intellectual property, which I think they are not going to offer what we want. … And some compliance in enforcement matters,” he said.
Reinsch told VOA’s Mandarin service that U.S. negotiators are specifically seeking ways to hold China accountable for the commitments it makes in any deal.
Munich Security Conference
While American and Chinese negotiators continue talks in Beijing, both countries are setting up for another potential faceoff in Europe.
The U.S. and China are sending large delegations to Friday’s Munich Security Conference in Germany, a high-level conference on international security policy. Vice President Mike Pence leads the U.S. delegation while Politburo member Yang Jiechi will be the most senior Chinese official.
Yang Jiechi is heading the largest-ever Chinese delegation to the conference traditionally attended by the U.S. and its European allies. He is pushing back against Washington’s campaign pressing Europe to exclude Chinese tech giant Huawei from taking part in constructing 5G mobile networks in the region.
U.S. officials say allowing the Chinese company to build the next generation of wireless communications in Europe will enhance the Chinese government’s surveillance powers, threatening European security.
Although the technology behind 5G is complex, Brad Setser, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and former assistant secretary at the U.S. Treasury Department, said the decisions for European countries is simple.
“Given the nature of modern telecommunication, countries do have to make a choice whether or not that Huawei, given its ownership relationship with the Chinese government, can it be trusted to provide their future communication systems.”
Both Pence and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned allies in Poland and other Central European countries this week on the dangers of closer ties with Beijing and collaboration with Chinese firms. In Budapest, Hungary, on Monday, Pompeo said American companies might scale back European operations if countries continue to do business with Huawei.
Huawei has repeatedly denied its products could be used for espionage.
U.S. prosecutors have filed charges against Huawei including bank fraud, violating sanctions against Iran, and stealing trade secrets. The company refuted these accusations and rejected charges against its chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, who is currently on bail in Canada following her arrest in December.
This year’s Munich Security Conference topics include the “great power competition” between the United States, China and Russia. Conference organizers have listed U.S.-China tensions as one of their top 10 security issues of 2019.
VOA’s Mandarin Service reporter Jingxun Li contributed to this report.