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U.S.-China Trade Relations Tense Ahead of Trump Visit

Thursday, September 28, 2017
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

A recent meeting between Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and senior Chinese officials in Beijing indicated that bilateral trade tensions remain high ahead of President Trump’s anticipated visit to China later this fall. The two sides said they prefer to resolve differences peacefully but will take stronger action if necessary.

A DOC press release said the meeting between Ross, U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, and others featured “a friendly and honest exchange of views” on concerns the U.S. regularly raises with respect to China, including its trade surplus with the U.S., intellectual property rights protections, tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and lack of “fair and reciprocal treatment” for U.S. companies. Ross reiterated the need for “concrete deliverables and meaningful action” on these and other issues.

The meeting also highlighted that the two sides are still at odds over the Section 301 investigation the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is currently conducting of China’s acts, policies, and practices related to technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation. This investigation could lead to measures such as additional tariffs or restrictions on U.S. imports of Chinese goods.

According to the press release, Ross “continued to stress the need for concrete action” to address U.S. concerns in this matter and reiterated that Washington will “take action to defend American workers and businesses if cooperative efforts bear no fruit.” Chinese officials reportedly responded that “they would have to respond in kind to any potential action by the U.S.”

At the same time, the DOC states, both sides agreed that bilateral trade frictions should be resolved through negotiation and China “continually stressed that dialogue is preferable to unilateral action.”

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