China, US unlikely to reach comprehensive deal covering all issues: expert

The inability to fix a specific time for the proposed Xi-Trump meeting aimed at making a trade deal during the G20 summit shows that the two countries are not well prepared for reaching an agreement on the contentious issues, according to an expert.

"Currently, the China-US relationship is still under adjustment, with their divergences continuing to expand. The American policy toward China is becoming harsher, a trend that could not be reversed in a short term. Therefore, it is impossible for the two countries to reach a comprehensive agreement on all the issues that divide them," said Tang Yanlin, a research fellow at the Charhar Institute, a Chinese think tank.

Given the fact that the United States has gone back on its word, which has, to some extent, undermined the mutual trust needed for trade talks, Washington needs to show more goodwill and sincerity if it wants to resolve the problems, said Tang.

In May, the White House announced that it would impose a 25 percent tariff on $50 billion of Chinese goods irrespective of an agreement it reached with China during a previous negotiation in Washington. The capriciousness surprised China, which said that the US move was contrary to the consensus both sides reached at the Washington talks and vowed to fight back if Washington was looking to reignite a trade war.

Recently, Chinese Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai criticized the Trump administration for blowing hot and cold, saying that the capriciousness would be detrimental to the trade negotiations.

Worse still, a speech US Vice President Mike Pence gave in October has cast shadow on the prospect of the China-US relationship. In the speech, Pence accused China of orchestrating a military, economic and political campaign to undermine the Trump administration and bolster Chinese influence in America and worldwide. Pence's comment was considered by global media as the portent of a new cold war. A day after the remarks, Beijing rejected his accusation as "unwarranted" and "ridiculous".

"Pence's comments signal a toughening of its China policy, as the United States is facing pressure after China stopped buying natural gas and grains and imposed higher tariff on American pork," said Tang, adding that American farmers want an agreement between the two countries and pin their hopes on the G20 summit.

The G20 summit in Argentina will provide an opportunity for the attendees to hold open talks on free trade. Tang predicted that the participating countries would hold discussions about the reforms of the World Trade Organization, which support free trade, economic globalization and multilateral trade. But he said that the United States might be an obstacle to these discussions as its president has threatened to break away from the established global economic and trade order.

However, Tang believed that Xi and Trump would likely work on some measures that are necessary to control the two sides' divergences during their meeting.

On November 1, Xi and Trump made a phone call, in which the two leaders agreed to seek measures acceptable to both sides to solve their trade problems. The two leaders agreed that the trade dispute should be handled properly through substantial consultation, said Lu Kang, a spokesperson of China's Foreign Ministry after the phone conversation.

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