US-China strains over minority rights hinder chance of trade deal
WASHINGTON, Oct 8: Prospects for progress in US-China trade talks dimmed on Monday after Washington blacklisted Chinese companies over Beijing's treatment of predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities, and President Donald Trump said a quick trade deal was unlikely.
The move by the US Commerce Department could deepen divisions between Washington and Beijing at a critical juncture in their 15-month trade war that has roiled financial markets and triggered a slowdown in the global economy.
Another flashpoint has been a widening controversy over a tweet from a US National Basketball Association official. His backing of Hong Kong democracy protests was rebuked by the NBA, sparking a backlash.
Trump and his top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, spoke in generally upbeat terms about this week's discussions with China, the first such high-level talks in more than two months, but Trump insisted he would not be satisfied with a partial deal.
"We think there's a chance we could do something very substantial," Trump said, referring to minister-level talks scheduled for the end of the week. "I would much prefer a big deal and I think that's what we're shooting for."
Pressed to elaborate on the chances of progress this week, Trump sounded more skeptical. "Can something happen? I guess, maybe. Who knows. But I think it's probably unlikely," he said.
The Chinese Communist Party's official newspaper, People's Daily, on Tuesday said the talks could go three ways, namely both sides reaching a "fair" deal; the talks completely falling apart; or maintaining the state of "talking while retaliating".
"We will strive for a good outcome, but will also not force it," the newspaper said on its official WeChat account.
The post noted recent developments showed the US side has yet to give up its "maximum pressure" negotiating tactics.
It added China has made "sufficient and appropriate" response plans if the talks completely collapse, without elaborating.
Trump also said he hoped China found a humane and peaceful resolution to the protests in Hong Kong, and warned the situation had the potential to hurt trade talks.
"If anything happened bad, I think that would be a very bad thing for the negotiation. I think politically it would be very tough," he told reporters at the White House.
Police in Hong Kong have used rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons against pro-democracy demonstrators in the former British colony, which has been plunged into its worst political crisis in decades.
Beijing views US support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong as interfering with its sovereignty.
US and Chinese deputy trade negotiators on Monday launched two days of talks aimed at paving the way for the first minister-level negotiations in months.
The White House officially confirmed that the high-level talks, involving Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, would begin on Thursday. -Reuters