China's Vice-Premier Liu He (third left) speaks during a meeting with US President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House. Photo: AFP / Manderl Ngan

It has become one of the longest-running geopolitical dramas during the Trump administration era, creating uncertainty and upheaval in the global markets.

On Friday, the latest installment of the trade war soap opera was played out in Washington with the negotiating teams from the United States and China deciding to extend the latest round of talks by another 48 hours.

Still, details of any concrete progress were scarce in the seven-month-old dispute, which has prompted stark warnings about the risks to the world economy.

“I think there is a very, very good chance that a deal can be made,” US President Donald Trump told the media at the White House on the second day of negotiations with Chinese officials.

“If we are doing well, I could see extending that [March 1 deadline for the end of the three-month tariff truce],” he added.

The reaction from Beijing was just as positive with the official state-run Xinhua news agency reporting:

“As the lead Chinese negotiator, [Vice-Premier] Liu He said that during the past two days, trade teams of both countries have had fruitful talks and achieved good progress in such areas as [the] balance of trade, agriculture, technology transfer, protection of intellectual property rights, and financial services.”

There were even suggestions that a summit between Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping could take place next month at The Donald’s Mar-a-Lago golf resort in Florida.

Cement a deal

In the race to cement a deal, there was also a moment of confusion during Trump’s press conference when he ended up verbally sparring with Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who has been a key player in the discussions.

It revolved around what to call the agreement which is still being negotiated.

Traditionally, bilateral trade deals between nations have been sealed with a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, rather than legally binding contracts because of the complex structure of legal systems around the world.

“An MOU is a contract, it’s the way trade agreements are generally used,” Lighthizer said in response to a media question about whether the MOU being discussed between the US and China would be short or long term.

“I disagree,” Trump replied. “I think that an MOU is not a contract to the extent that we want … To me, the final contract is really the thing, Bob. To me, MOUs don’t mean anything.”

Suitably chastised, Lightheizer responded:

“From now on, we’re not using the term memorandum of understanding anymore. We’re going to use the term trade agreement. We’ll have the same document, but it’s going to be known as a trade agreement.”

How this will unfold during the next few days is open to debate.

Intellectual property theft

Beijing and Washington are still struggling to reconcile their disputes over forced US technology transfers and intellectual property theft. But, according to sources quoted by the CNBC television network, the world’s second-largest economy has committed to buying American goods worth hundreds of billions of dollars in a move to shrink last year’s record US trade deficit of $323.32 billion.

Yet crucial sticking points still remain, including Beijing’s state-subsidies model and far-reaching “structural changes.”

Another issue of contention for the US is China’s ambitious industrial strategy for global preeminence, which is embedded in Xi’s economic policy.

Uncertainty about whether any deal agreed will stand the test of time prompted Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, to again warn that trade tensions were a “major risk” to world economic growth.

“I cross my fingers every morning and my toes every evening because I hope that it is going to end up with a way to fix the system, not break it,” she said earlier this week.

She is probably not alone in her daily ritual.

Read: Trade talks: Trump eyes dropping Huawei charges

Asia Times Financial is now live. Linking accurate news, insightful analysis and local knowledge with the ATF China Bond 50 Index, the world's first benchmark cross sector Chinese Bond Indices. Read ATF now. 

Join the Conversation

38 Comments

  1. I’m not sure exactly why but this website is loading extremely slow for me. Is anyone else having this issue or is it a issue on my end? I’ll check back later and see if the problem still exists.

  2. There are actually a number of particulars like that to take into consideration. That is a nice level to carry up. I provide the ideas above as general inspiration but clearly there are questions just like the one you deliver up the place a very powerful factor will probably be working in trustworthy good faith. I don?t know if greatest practices have emerged round things like that, but I’m sure that your job is clearly recognized as a good game. Both girls and boys feel the influence of just a second’s pleasure, for the rest of their lives.

  3. I’m truly enjoying the design and layout of your blog.
    It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more
    enjoyable for me to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a designer to
    create your theme? Fantastic work!

  4. Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an very long comment but after
    I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr…
    well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyways, just wanted to say wonderful blog!

  5. Wonderful blog! I found it while searching on Yahoo News.
    Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo
    News? I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem
    to get there! Many thanks

  6. My brother recommended I would possibly like this blog. He was once totally right. This post actually made my day. You cann’t consider just how much time I had spent for this information! Thank you!

  7. Thank you for every other great post. Where else may anybody get that type of information in such an ideal method of writing? I’ve a presentation subsequent week, and I am at the search for such information.

  8. Hi there, i read your blog occasionally and i own a similar one and
    i was just wondering if you get a lot of spam responses?
    If so how do you stop it, any plugin or anything you can advise?
    I get so much lately it’s driving me insane so any support is
    very much appreciated.

  9. Wonderful blog you have here but I was wondering if you knew of any community
    forums that cover the same topics talked about here?
    I’d really love to be a part of online community where I can get
    advice from other experienced individuals that share the same interest.
    If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Thank you!
    natalielise pof

  10. Attractive component to content. I just stumbled upon your weblog and in accession capital to say that I get in fact loved account your weblog posts.
    Anyway I’ll be subscribing for your feeds and even I achievement you get right of entry to persistently
    rapidly.

  11. We are a gaggle of volunteers and starting a
    new scheme in our community. Your web site provided us with useful information to work on. You have done a formidable job and
    our entire neighborhood shall be thankful to you.

  12. Greetings! Quick question that’s entirely off topic.
    Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly?

    My website looks weird when viewing from my apple iphone.
    I’m trying to find a theme or plugin that might be
    able to fix this problem. If you have any suggestions, please share.
    Cheers!

  13. Do you mind if I quote a couple of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your website? My blog site is in the exact same niche as yours and my users would genuinely benefit from a lot of the information you present here. Please let me know if this alright with you. Regards!

  14. Today, I went to the beachfront with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said
    “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She put the shell to her ear and screamed.
    There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched
    her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is entirely off topic but I had to tell someone!

  15. I have been exploring for a little bit for any high quality articles or blog posts on this sort of area . Exploring in Yahoo I eventually stumbled upon this web site. Reading this information So i am happy to exhibit that I have an incredibly excellent uncanny feeling I found out just what I needed. I most undoubtedly will make sure to do not overlook this website and provides it a glance regularly.

  16. It is the best time to make a few plans for the longer term and it is
    time to be happy. I have learn this post and if I could I desire to recommend you few
    fascinating issues or suggestions. Perhaps you could write subsequent articles
    regarding this article. I desire to read
    more things approximately it!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *