Senior US and Chinese officials concluded contentious economic talks on Wednesday but the outcome was clouded by the cancellation of closing news conferences and US demands for a “more fair” trading relationship with Beijing.
US Treasury and Commerce Department officials declined immediate comment on the annual summer dialogue between Washington and Beijing, while the Chinese delegation’s leader, Vice Premier Wang Yang, left the Treasury building without speaking to reporters, Reuters reports.
The two sides did not issue a joint statement or action plan following the meeting, a significant departure from past years and another sign of likely disagreements, the news agency said.
Investors interpreted the negative signals from the talks and lack of new trade announcements as making it more likely that the Trump administration would forge ahead with broad steel tariffs or quotas based on a national security review, sending US steelmakers’ shares soaring on Wednesday.
After the market closed, a reporter at the White House asked President Donald Trump whether he would impose steel tariffs, eliciting the response: “Could happen.”
The potential steel tariffs, which could be announced in the coming weeks, were expected to be a difficult topic in the US-China talks. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has blamed massive Chinese excess capacity for a global steel glut that is hurting US producers.
In opening remarks to the US-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue, Ross sharply criticized China’s US$347 billion trade surplus with the United States, saying it was not the product of market forces and the bilateral trading relationship needed to change.
“We must create more balance in our trade by increasing exports of made-in-America goods to China,” Ross said at the Treasury Department. “There are significant opportunities to do this if we can work together to remove the significant barriers that continue to exist.”
Neither the Treasury nor the Chinese embassy offered explanations for why their news conferences scheduled for late afternoon were canceled.
It was unclear whether the talks covered US demands that China put more pressure on North Korea to curb its nuclear and missile development efforts. Trump has said that China would get a better deal on US trade terms if it cooperates on North Korea.
The Trump administration could impose new sanctions on small Chinese banks and other firms doing business with Pyongyang within weeks, administration sources said last week.
The meeting came at the end of a 100-day effort to craft an economic plan aimed at reducing the US goods trade deficit with China. So far, China has agreed to resume purchasing US beef after a 14-year hiatus and committed to buy US liquefied natural gas and open some parts of its financial services markets, such as card payment services.
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