Us-china talks de­pend on speak­ing one lan­guage

Business Daily (Kenya) - - IDEAS & DEBATE - GINA CHON

Reuters Break­ingviews colum­nist

The United States and China are al­ready speak­ing dif­fer­ent lan­guages about trade. Their re­spec­tive tar­iff-cease­fire spin over the week­end re­flects dif­fer­ent in­ter­pre­ta­tions and pri­or­i­ties. Whether on auto im­port du­ties or the wel­come Chi­nese stu­dents re­ceive in Amer­ica, ne­go­tia­tors in the trade talks that will now take place may strug­gle to re­store the norms that pre­vailed be­fore hos­til­i­ties be­gan, let alone go fur­ther.

Trump has cre­ated lever­age over China that past U.S. pres­i­dents didn’t en­joy. Af­ter im­pos­ing du­ties on about half of Chi­nese im­ports, he and Chi­nese coun­ter­part Xi Jin­ping agreed to halt their es­ca­lat­ing trade war dur­ing their week­end din­ner at the G20 gath­er­ing in Ar­gentina.

China agreed to buy more US goods and to dis­cuss struc­tural changes to en­hance in­tel­lec­tual-prop­erty pro­tec­tion and re­duce forced tech­nol­ogy trans­fers, ac­cord­ing to the White House.

But dif­fer­ences emerged as soon as the din­ner was cleared away. Bei­jing said Amer­ica was ea­ger to host stu­dents from the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic and that both sides agreed to in­crease mar­ket ac­cess – im­ply­ing that in­cluded the United States, which has cracked down on Chi­nese in­vest­ment.

The White House didn’t men­tion ei­ther is­sue, but said China was open to re­con­sid­er­ing Qual­comm’s $44 bil­lion deal to ac­quire NXP Semi­con­duc­tors, which Bei­jing had failed to ap­prove lead­ing to its aban­don­ment in July – although that seemed moot on Mon­day with Qual­comm say­ing it con­sid­ered the is­sue closed.

Mean­time, Trump tweeted on Mon­day that China had agreed to “re­duce and re­move tar­iffs” on US au­tos, an is­sue nei­ther side men­tioned in their summaries of the din­ner. Ear­lier this year, China low­ered over­all auto levies from 25 per­cent to 15 per­cent, but later in­creased du­ties on Amer­i­can-made ve­hi­cles to 40 per­cent in re­sponse to the US gov­ern­ment adding a 25 per­cent tar­iff on Chi­nese au­tos.

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