US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Photo: Reuters
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Photo: Reuters

After China roundly rejected the possibility of discussing key sources of trade friction identified by the Trump administration, one member of the trade delegation headed to Beijing today did little to raise expectations for a deal.

Senior officials in Beijing will not discuss the two big asks coming from the White House, namely, to slash America’s US$375 billion annual trade deficit with China by US$100 billion and to scale back subsidies to high-tech industries. That is according to multiple people involved in Chinese policymaking, as reported by The New York Times on Monday.

Speaking to CNBC on Tuesday, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, a member of the negotiating team visiting China, gave little indication that US President Donald Trump was poised to accept small concessions.

“There has been talking between the two countries for years and years and years. President Trump is of the view it is now time for action,” Ross said when asked whether a deal might come out of the trip.

“Our trade deficit is too big and too continuing, too chronic and too inspired by evil practices,” he added, emphasizing the Trump administration’s focus on the trade imbalance.

After being pressed several times on whether he was optimistic about the trip, Ross said “I wouldn’t be going all the way over there if I didn’t think there was some hope.”