Negotiations between the United States and China on trade may be trudging on with little transpiring at each juncture, but China’s greater plans for global trade appear to be moving along just fine.
During a call Tuesday between U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and vice premier and leader of the China-US Comprehensive Economic Dialogue, Liu He, the three continued discussions on how to resolve core concerns and agreed to “maintain communications” toward a phase one trade agreement, China’s Ministry of Commerce said in a statement.
On Monday, China, according to Bloomberg, has agreed to raise penalties for intellectual property violations—which has been a sticking point for the U.S. in the talks. President Trump has clearly conveyed his displeasure at the U.S. having to give up sensitive commercial secrets as a condition for doing business there. China said it will work to reduce IP violations by 2022 and intends to make it easier for violated parties to be accordingly compensated.
Little else has yet been said about a resolution on tariffs as the Dec. 15 tranche 4B duties approach, and the U.S. and China don’t appear to have honed in on a date for signing the phase one agreement.
However, China is positioned to further facilitate trade on a global scale, tariff war or not.
In remarks during the opening ceremony of the 2nd China International Import Expo earlier this month, Chinese president Xi Jinping spoke about economic globalization and plans to open up China’s market.
“China’s door to openness will only open wider and wider,” Xi said. “We will persist in opening up to promote reform, development and innovation, and continue to promote higher levels of opening up.”
And with that will come a greater focus on manufacturing for its expanding middle class and curbing barriers to international trade.
“China will actively build a more domestic market, pay more attention to the role of imports, further reduce tariffs and institutional costs, cultivate a number of important trade demonstration zones for innovation, and expand imports of high-quality products and services from various countries,” Xi said.
Addressing intellectual property in particular, Xi said China will “relax foreign market access” and “improve the legal system for intellectual property protection.”
Amid scant details on the status of the ongoing phase-one trade deal talks, some surmise that a deal is close at hand, while others don’t expect an agreement this year at all. So far, China has been clear that it’s willing to make a deal based on “equality” and Trump has been adamant that the deal must be better for the U.S. because the current playing field is already uneven. Until both sides agree to some concessions, the stalemate will continue.