US and China Begin Face-to-Face Trade Talks in Beijing

January 6, 2019 Updated: January 6, 2019

A U.S. delegation arrived in Beijing on Jan. 7 to conduct in-person trade negotiations with their Chinese counterparts.

The U.S. side is being led by Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish, with senior officials from the White House and U.S. departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, State, and Treasury joining him.

It is the first time U.S. officials are having face-to-face talks since U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed on a 90-day truce to not escalate tariffs on both countries’ goods.

On Jan. 4, Trump told reporters at the White House that he’s optimistic about the talks.

“I think we will make a deal with China. I really think they want to,” he said.

Trump also said that he thinks the United States has the upper hand since the Chinese economy is experiencing a severe downturn.

Xiang Songzuo, an economist at China’s Renmin University, delivered a speech on Dec. 16, 2018, in which he cited reports concluding that China’s GDP growth was very low, or even shrinking.

Chinese state-run media also seem optimistic about the talks, though they continued to deny U.S. claims of widespread intellectual-property theft.

One Global Times editorial, on Jan. 5, read: “As long as the phrases ‘China’ and ‘stealing [technology]’ are placed together, Washington can find solutions to the problems and skepticisms they face. This kind of simplistic, rough attitude is not only shirking responsibility, but also making a fuss about nothing.”

The rest of the article analyzed Apple’s recently announced reductions in its sales forecast, explaining that the bad news bode negatively for the United States.

An opinion article that ran on CGTN, the international channel of China’s state-run broadcaster, on Jan. 6 expressed hope for real results during the talks.

Unlike the previous talks, there’s great hope that this round of talks will end the trade war,” Kong Qingjiang, an international law expert at China University of Political Science and Law, wrote.

The article claimed that the trade war affected the 2018 U.S. midterm election results—echoing a propaganda ploy by Beijing that the trade tariffs have impacted business for farmers in U.S. heartland states that voted for Trump during the presidential elections. Ahead of the midterms, Beijing attempted to sway voters in those states by running advertorials depicting the U.S. trade tariffs negatively in a major Iowa newspaper.

Kong added that if the trade war continues, it could negatively affect Trump’s bid for re-election in 2020.

“To make sure that his ‘wins’ in Buenos Aires are not short-lived, Donald Trump is eager to see an agreement or sort of an agreement either to put the end to the trade war or to show substantial results, thus scoring points for his upcoming presidential campaign,” Kong wrote.

He also expressed the Chinese regime’s stance that China had made major gestures of “goodwill,” citing the drafting of a foreign investment law that proposes banning forced technology transfers and government interference in foreign business operations.

But U.S.-based political analyst Qin Peng thinks the gestures are more symbolic than a true commitment to real reform.

“For example, with [resuming] buying U.S. soybeans, it is because China has no choice but to buy. The world only has two major suppliers of soybeans [Brazil being the other one]. Of course, in the past two years of trade talks, China has also promised a lot, but has not fundamentally fulfilled much of them,” Qin told NTD Television, in an interview. NTD and The Epoch Times are both part of the Epoch Media Group.

Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post reported that Chinese Vice Chairman Wang Qishan may meet with Trump at the sidelines of the upcoming World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, citing an anonymous source.

Follow Annie on Twitter: @annieeenyc