US President Donald Trump dampens chances of trade deal with China

The US president earlier in the day, about the prospects for the talks to be successful, was not optimistic.

Published: 18th May 2018 08:49 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th May 2018 02:48 PM   |  A+A-

US President Donald Trump (File Photo)

By AFP

WASHINGTON: US and Chinese officials face a new round of tough trade talks on Friday as President Donald Trump discounted chances of a deal, but Beijing extended a potential olive branch.

Trump met with a Chinese delegation headed by Vice Premier Liu He on Thursday as talks aimed at easing frictions between the economic powers got underway.

"The two sides agreed to continue the discussions on Friday," the White House said.

But speaking earlier in the day about the prospects for the talks to be successful, Trump was not optimistic, saying: "I tend to doubt it."

"China has become very spoiled... Because they always got 100 percent of whatever they wanted from the United States," he said.

Trump unleashed a barrage of criticism against former US administrations for allowing Beijing to take advantage of the United States.

"We have been ripped off by China. And an evacuation of wealth like no country has ever seen before given to another country that's rebuilt itself based on a lot of the money that they've taken out of the United States," he said.

"Trade has been a total one-way street," Trump said. "And I explained to (China's) President Xi (Jinping) that we can't do that anymore."

But hours later, China's commerce ministry announced that it was terminating its anti-dumping and anti-subsidy probe into US sorghum imports, saying punitive measures would increase costs for the Chinese livestock industry and consumers.

Provisional duties had been imposed last month. Tariffs on sorghum would hurt farmers in states such as Kansas, Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma, which are also major Republican-leaning states that make up Trump's electoral base.

Separately, the Chinese delegation has offered a $200 billion reduction in its annual trade surplus with the US by increasing American imports and other measures, according to Bloomberg News, which cited a Trump administration official. Such a reduction is among a list of US demands.

But foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the "rumours are false" and the "consultations are indeed still in progress and the talks are constructive."

Lu also said the decision to drop the sorghum probe should not be "over-interpreted." 

'Meet each other halfway' -

Trump also had harsh words for the European Union, which is likewise at loggerheads with Washington over US export tariffs on steel and aluminum.

"The European Union has been terrible to the United States on trade," he said. "They've been terrible to our workers."

China's Liu held talks with Trump and other top US officials, saying the two countries should "meet each other halfway, respect each other, and work together to push forward bilateral ties in a healthy and stable manner," according to China's official Xinhua news service.

The US has threatened to impose 25 percent punitive duties on up to $150 billion in Chinese goods while China has targeted $50 billion in American exports.

China said it hoped the two sides could resolve the trade frictions through talks.  

"But of course we've prepared a response for various possibilities," commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng said at a press briefing on Thursday.

The meetings, part of a busy week of US trade negotiations and tight deadlines in Washington, have become enmeshed in political intrigue after a Trump advisor considered a hardliner on China was left out. 

Trump economic aide Peter Navarro, who was seen as having a more dominant role following the departure of White House economic advisor Gary Cohn over trade issues, was left off the list of participants, unlike for the talks in Beijing two weeks ago.

According to press reports, Navarro sparred with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin over his handling of the China talks and was barred from attending the meetings this week.

Trump has also faced accusations of quid-pro-quo after vowing to soften punitive US sanctions on the Chinese telecoms equipment firm ZTE -- an announcement which came after AFP reported a Chinese state firm was joining a Trump-tied real estate development in Indonesia that could get hundreds of millions of dollars in Chinese government loans.

Trump, however, has denied weakening the US stance toward ZTE, and repeated Thursday that he told Xi he would "take a look at that."

"But anything we do with ZTE is a small component of the overall deal."

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