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Trade Talks In Beijing End With No Deal Between U.S. And China


We have two words this morning - no deal. The U.S. and China finished a weekend of trade talks in Beijing with tough talk and not much else. China had this to say - if the United States introduces trade measures, including an increase of tariffs, all of the economic and trade outcomes negotiated by the two parties will not take effect. And here's a tweet from President Trump. Quote, "when you're almost $800 billion a year down on trade, you can't lose a trade war," exclamation point. So is that trade war closer this morning, or is it maybe even possibly already underway?

William Zarit is with us from Beijing. He's president of the American Chamber of Commerce in China. Welcome back to the show, sir.


KING: William, we talked to you about two months ago, and you told us that you were optimistic that the U.S. and China would avoid a trade war. Are you still optimistic?

ZARIT: Well, I'm optimistic in the long term.


ZARIT: In the short term, there's so much rhetoric. And I think that there will be some battles here. But I don't think we're going to have a full trade war.

KING: What distinguishes a trade war from battles? Don't they usually add up to the same thing?

ZARIT: (Laughter) That's a fair question. It's probably the length of time and the intention to continue spiraling down. I think that it's almost inevitable that the U.S. will put tariffs on some Chinese goods here. But I just don't think it will last very long.

KING: The Trump administration says it is responding to decades of trade abuses with China as the main abuser. And you agreed when we talked before that the playing field has been tilted in China's favor. In simple terms, what are the sticking points here? What is China doing?

ZARIT: Well, it's market access. And I think market access is the real essence of our problem. We talk about deficits. We talk about IPR. The market access having - U.S. companies having similar access or reciprocal access to Chinese markets so that both U.S. and Chinese have pretty much fair access to each other's trade markets and investment markets. The U.S. is quite open. China is not. So the U.S. companies have much less access. And I think this is the main thing that is causing this lopsided trade relationship.

KING: Well, this is interesting because the U.S. delegation led by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross seemed to be focused on a solution, which is that China should just buy more American stuff, and that would narrow the trade deficit. That doesn't seem like what you're saying. Is that an answer?

ZARIT: No, it doesn't seem like (laughter) - it doesn't seem like what I'm saying. And I think it would be nice if we were able to have some kind of an agreement - you know, the U.S. selling more ag products, which the Chinese want, the U.S. selling more energy, whether it's LNG or other energy products, which the Chinese need. But this is really not getting to the real core of the problem. I think it would show some good intention on both sides if we did get an agreement like this. But this is really far from the real essence of the issue.

KING: It was interesting. Officials from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative were not present at these trade talks the past weekend. What do you think that means? Why weren't they there?

ZARIT: I'm not sure why they weren't there. But I think it was disappointing because I think that the USTR has really the best handle on this negotiation. So next time, I'm hoping that USTR will play a bigger role in talks.

KING: William Zarit is president of the American Chamber of Commerce in China. He was on the line with us from Beijing. William, thanks so much.

ZARIT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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