Trump Calls China’s List of Trade Concessions ‘Not Acceptable’

Posted November 16, 2018 5:06 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Friday that a list of trade concessions offered by Chinese officials in recent days was not sufficient to resolve concerns about Beijing’s trade practices, suggesting that a deal remains unlikely when Trump meets with President Xi Jinping of China this month.

In remarks at the White House, Trump expressed optimism that an agreement with China would eventually be reached and acknowledged that negotiations had intensified in recent weeks ahead of the Group of 20 summit meeting in Argentina. But while Beijing has begun offering concessions, Trump said they did not go far enough to change China’s unfair trade practices.

“They sent a list of things they are willing to do. A large list. It’s not acceptable to me yet,” Trump said.

China recently gave Trump administration officials a list of about 140 concessions they were willing to make, which Trump described as “a pretty complete list.” But he said the list did not include “four or five” large items that needed to be resolved before a deal could be reached.

“Some things were left off. We will probably get them, too,” Trump said.

The United States has accused China of engaging in a range of unfair trade practices, including restricting access to its market, pressuring U.S. companies doing business in China to hand over valuable technology, cyberespionage and outright intellectual property theft.

The administration has given China a list of more than 100 demands, including eliminating the theft of intellectual property, easing joint venture requirements for companies doing business in China and agreeing to reduce the bilateral trade deficit. China has frustrated U.S. officials in the past by repackaging reforms that they intend to make, or have already made, as major concessions.

“I think he just wants to say he’s optimistic or he has no understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish,” said Derek Scissors, a China expert at the American Enterprise Institute who has seen a copy of the Chinese list. “The list is the same thing that they said they were offering in April.”

The president said either China would “open up” or his administration would impose tariffs on an additional $267 billion of Chinese imports. The United States has already imposed tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports, and the rate of some of the levies is set to increase to 25 percent in January, from 10 percent. China has retaliated with tariffs of its own on U.S. goods.

U.S. businesses have complained about Trump’s tariffs, which are raising costs for companies that import materials from overseas, disrupting supply chains and making it more difficult to sell U.S. goods in China. But Trump continues to incorrectly assert that China is paying the tariffs and depositing money into the U.S. Treasury.

“We have tariffs on $250 billion worth of goods and these are — we are talking about billions and billions of dollars a month will flow into our country and already started flowing in. It comes from China,” he said.

While Trump struck a hopeful tone about the prospect of a deal, he continued to express frustration about the trade relationship with China. He said that his predecessors allowed “money to be sucked out of our country by the billions.”

“We can’t have trade that’s made for stupid people,” Trump said. “That’s the way they took advantage of our country. We don’t have that anymore. They understand that. I think a deal will be made, and we will find out very soon.”

But the ability to get to a deal could be somewhat hamstrung by warring factions within Trump’s inner circle. The president’s economic team has been sparring in recent days over how to proceed with the China talks, which have yielded little progress in the last 18 months. Last week, Peter Navarro, a top trade adviser, warned in a speech that Wall Street executives were trying to insert themselves into the negotiations and saddle the president with a bad deal.

On Tuesday, Trump’s economic director, Larry Kudlow, rebuked Navarro and called his remarks “way off base” and unauthorized.

Other administration officials have tried to temper expectations for the bilateral meeting between Trump and Xi that is expected to take place at the G-20. Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, told Bloomberg on Thursday that it was “impossible” to reach a formal deal with China by January but that they would try to agree on a big-picture framework for additional negotiations.

Treasury Department officials have been working with their counterparts in China to lay the foundation for the talks between Trump and Xi.