- President Donald Trump’s key economic advisers reached a rough trade agreement with Chinese negotiators on Saturday.
- The deal lacked key details and commitments from the Chinese, which drew criticism.
- According to a new report, infighting among Trump’s advisers, including Steven Mnuchin, Peter Navarro, Larry Kudlow, and Robert Lighthizer, hurt the team’s negotiating stance.
- Trade analysts say the end result displays key errors by the Trump team.
The trade deal reached by the Trump administration and the Chinese government on Saturday has been blasted by liberals and conservatives alike. One report suggests internal strife among members of the US delegation may have hurt the Trump team’s negotiating posture.
The deal would put President Donald Trump’s tariffs on $US150 billion of Chinese goods “on hold” in exchange for China agreeing to purchase more US agricultural goods and energy resources. The two sides also agreed to reduce the trade imbalance between China and the US but did not reveal specifics.
Critics from both the left and the right criticised the broad agreement, saying it did little to address underlying problems with China’s economy while sacrificing leverage that Trump created over the past two months.
It has long been apparent that there are two camps within the upper ranks of Trump’s economic team:
- The free traders, led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow
- The trade hawks, led by White House Trade Council head Peter Navarro and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
- Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross vacillates between the two, but has more recently sided with the hawks.
According to the Times, infighting between the two camps in the Trump team allowed the Chinese to avoid any hard commitments.
For instance, the Chinese were prepared to announce purchases of nearly $US200 billion worth of American goods over the next few years in an attempt to satisfy Trump’s desire to reduce the US goods deficit with China.
But, the Times said, the Chinese pulled back after the discussions around the $US200 billion number leaked to the press from the US side. The backlash prompted a Chinese state-run newspaper to label it all “a misunderstanding.”
‘A textbook case of nearly EVERY SINGLE THING you should NOT do’
Dmitry Grozoubinski, a trade expert at the International Center for Trade and Sustainable Development and a former Australian trade negotiator, tweeted in response to the Times story that public leaks of the Chinese positions forced their negotiators to change tactics.
“The Chinese may have been prepared to make up to $US200b worth of concessions but could only do so in exchange for commitments from the US,” Grozoubinski said. “The leak of the $US200b before discussion on counterbalancing US commitments could advance sufficiently left Chinese negotiators exposed. Their commitment was presented outside the context of the broader deal they would need to make it, forcing them to pull it back.”
Ilan Goldenberg, the director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, also took the Trump team to task over the negotiations.
“As someone who was part of diplomatic talks, this story on how Trump team screwed up China negotiations is a textbook case of nearly EVERY SINGLE THING you should NOT do,” Goldenberg tweeted Monday.
Goldenberg, who previously worked at the State Department and as a staff member for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the Trump team’s lack of cohesion and leaks of key negotiating positions were major problems.
“Diplomatic negotiations on tough issues are really really hard,” he said. “Even without all these basic unforced errors, likelihood of success is often low. With these errors it’s impossible.”
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