Donald Trump’s four-week time frame for the United States and China to settle on an agreement to end the trade war is not guaranteed, with an editorial in a newspaper closely affiliated with Beijing urging patience “as neither side has made any promise that there will definitely be a deal.”
US President Trump met Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He on Thursday and said that the two nations would know “over the next four weeks” whether a trade deal could be reached.
But while it is still uncertain when, or even whether, Beijing and Washington can reach a trade deal, the Global Times editorial appears to be an attempt to manage expectations.
“The fruit is not yet ripe, and if either side makes a hasty move to pick it, that side may have to pay an extra price or it may have to force the other side to pay an extra price,” said the editorial which was published on Monday. “It will incur serious problems down the road and weaken the deal’s ripeness and fairness.”
The Global Times, a publication affiliated with the flagship newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, the People’s Daily, said Trump’s suggestion that a deal could be reached by the end of the month is “just an uncertain timetable”.
“Neither side has made any promise that there will definitely be a deal,” the newspaper continued. “The US side has sometimes been upbeat, giving the impression that a deal is almost there. But sometimes it has stressed the differences and difficulties. The Chinese side has basically refrained from making a prediction of the final result.
“At this moment, patience is probably the most important thing.”
China and US have entered what has been described as the final stage of intensive talks to reach a deal, and the editorial argued that while the two countries are still likely to reach an agreement, it expressed caution saying that “a good deal takes time.”
“The US side has sometimes been upbeat, giving the impression that a deal is almost there. But sometimes it has stressed the differences and difficulties. The Chinese side has basically refrained from making a prediction of the final result.
The editorial does not necessarily reflect China’s official stance, but the Global Times is one of a limited number of official media, along with a few social media accounts affiliated with the state media outlets, that Beijing uses to manage domestic expectations about the progress of the trade talks.
According to the editorial, there are still four areas that need to be addressed or improved before Beijing and Washington can sign a deal.
The two sides first need to resolve their differences over the text of the agreement, although the remaining issues are seen as the most difficult to resolve. Both governments must exhibit “stronger” will to confront domestic opponents of a trade deal, given that some elements will be controversial, the editorial argued.
“For the US side … even a good deal will be described by the opponents as a failed one or bad for the US,” it said. “Even in China, it’s impossible to have just one view.”
Washington and Beijing should also reduce bilateral “political and security frictions” so that there will be sufficient political and public goodwill to reach a trade deal. The editorial did not specify what “political and security frictions” it was referring to or whether continued disagreement could halt a trade deal.
Finally, the two countries must treat a trade deal as a step towards better bilateral relations in general. “It is a bad idea to assume that the two sides can sort out their trade matters and then to focus on fierce political and security rivalry,” the editorial said.
China’s trade negotiation team led by Vice-Premier Liu and the US team led by US trade representative Robert Lighthizer conducted the ninth round of trade talks in Washington last week, with both sides claiming progress toward an eventual trade deal was made.
The official Xinhua news agency said that the two sides have achieved “new progress” over the agreement, while White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said there was still “significant work” to be done in trade talks with Beijing.
But Trump, while expressing his clear expectation that a deal would be reached, left open the possibility that there would be no agreement. “This is an epic deal, historic … if it happens,” he said.
Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic adviser, said in an interview with CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday that the US and China are “closer and closer” to a trade deal and the two sides will keep talking this week via “a lot of teleconferencing”.