Leaders attending G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, last November. Photo: The Yomiuri Shimbun

Judging from official statements in recent weeks, the US and China are as far away from coming to an agreement on trade as they have been since a tariff battle ensued last year.

The two sides publicly blamed each other for the breakdown in talks last month, and there is no indication that either side is prepared to make concessions as a prerequisite for restarting talks.

The only glimmer of hope in recent days was the news that one of the top US trade negotiators, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, will meet in person with People’s Bank of China governor Yi Gang this weekend. It would mark the first face-to-face meeting between US and Chinese officials involved in trade talks since the discussions broke down.

There is speculation that such a meeting, which will take place in Japan at a gathering of Group of Twenty finance ministers, could break the ice for progress on restarting talks, even if the two don’t get far in laying the groundwork for such a breakthrough.

US President Donald Trump expressed confidence that he would have a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit to be held in Japan this month and said that no decision on a new tranche of tariffs on Chinese goods would come before then.

“I will make that decision.… Probably right after the G20. One way or another I’ll make that decision – after the G20,” Trump told reporters on Thursday during a visit to France.

“I’ll be meeting with President Xi and we’ll see what happens, but probably planning it sometime after G20,” he stressed.

Leaders from G20 countries will convene in Osaka on June 28 and 29.

On May 10, after US accusations that China had backtracked on key concessions made during negotiations, the Trump administration raised tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods from 10% to 25%. The increase came with a threat that 25% tariffs would be slapped on an additional $325 billion worth of Chinese goods.

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