Members of a Chinese Trade delegation leave the building of the US Treasury after two days of talks with US representatives in Washington. Photo: AFP

Chinese officials left meetings in Washington on Thursday with no announcements that would indicate progress was made in resolving an ongoing trade dispute, increasing the likelihood that the tariff battle will escalate.

No further talks were scheduled according to one source familiar with the discussions, Bloomberg reported. The same person said Chinese officials were hesitant to hold more talks before midterm elections.

That is troubling news for the hundreds of US businesses and trade associations that sent representatives to ongoing public hearings this week, pleading with the Trump administration not to add another US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods to the list of tariff targets.

With no new talks on the horizon, it is all the more likely that the White House will follow through, which would bring the total value of Chinese goods subject to tariffs to a whopping US$250 billion, or roughly half of all goods imported from China.

Should it come to that, China’s finance minister told Reuters, Beijing will respond “resolutely.”

While there is plenty of opposition to the tariffs among lawmakers in Washington, members of the president’s own party, which maintains a majority in both chambers of Congress, do not wield enough clout among the president’s base to push back on his agenda.

On the Chinese side, unusually audible grumblings of discontent among elites in Beijing, which included some criticism of Xi Jinping’s hardline response to Trump’s trade offensive, may not be loud enough to influence trade policy.

The grim summer of discontent is coming to a close, with no indication that the fall will be any brighter.

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