US officials have warned China that Donald Trump will not engage in trade talks with Xi Jinping at next month’s G20 summit if Beijing does not produce a detailed list of concessions, according to two people briefed on negotiations between the countries. The Chinese, however, say they have such a list but would not present it without some guarantee of it being received in a stable political climate in Washington, including a point person with a mandate to negotiate on behalf of the Trump administration, according to the two people.
US officials have been frustrated by what they see as Beijing’s unwillingness to discuss substantive “structural issues” related to its economic and trade policies. Beijing has been similarly irritated by the erratic approach of the Trump administration, and the inability of US cabinet officials to negotiate binding deals. At the first round of trade talks in early May, US negotiators presented Vice Premier Liu He with a detailed list of more than 140 specific demands, ranging from market access barriers to large, long-term purchases of US energy and agricultural commodities that would reduce Beijing’s large goods trade surplus with the US.
In August, Chinese negotiators indicated that they could reach agreement on about a third of the demands relatively quickly and were willing to engage in discussions on another third. The remainder, they added, were off-limits because of national security or other concerns. These included US demands that China’s domestic cloud computing market be opened to foreign companies. But Mr Liu’s team has not yet presented its detailed response to US negotiators.
Chinese officials were prepared to do so at a fifth round of trade talks in Washington last month, but the discussions were abruptly cancelled after Mr Trump slapped tariffs on more than half of all Chinese exports to the US. Officials now say that they need China’s response well in advance of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires scheduled for November 30, in order to pave the way for substantive trade discussions between the two leaders. Mr Xi and Mike Pence, the US vice-president, are also due to attend the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ summit in Papua New Guinea on November 18.