US President Donald Trump welcomes the possibility of reaching a deal on US-China trade frictions over dinner on Saturday with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, though is prepared to hike tariffs on Chinese imports if there is no breakthrough, said White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow.
Some days before the high profile dinner, it was still unclear whether the two parties had agreed on a formal agenda for the leaders’ conversation after the G20 summit in Buenos Aires. Kudlow said that there were no scheduled discussions on the ground for the advisors.
Kudlow claimed that the US president had told advisors that “in his view, there is a good possibility that a deal can be made, that he is open to that.”
However, he also said that “certain conditions have to be met,” citing intellectual property theft, forced technology transfers, ownership of US firms in China, high tariffs and non-tariffs barriers on commodities, and commercial hacking as examples that topics that “must be solved.”
Kudlow did not comment over whether China had offered some concessions.
The White House sees the meeting, which Kudlow indicated would involve Argentine beef, as a chance to “turn the page” on a trade war with China. However, he said that the White House has been disappointed so far in the responses coming from China regarding the trade issues.
“Their responses have disappointed because…we can’t find much change in their approach,” he said, not commenting any specifics. “President Xi has an opportunity to change the tone and substances of these talks. President Trump has indicated he is open – now we need to know if President Xi is open.”
If there is no breakthrough, Trump is ready to raise tariffs on $200 billion of imports to 25 percent from current levels of 10 percent, and could add tariffs on another $267 billion of imports, said Kudlow.
“As we’ve all learned, he means what he says,” he added.
When asked whether the two parties had agreed on a list of agenda items for the leaders to discuss, Kudlow said, “We’re in some significant preparation on all that.”
Kudlow further added that he was not sure whether the two leaders would agree to a joint statement at the end of their dinner, as is usual for a meeting between two world leaders.
“It’s a dinner-party-kind-of-thing,” said Kudlow.
He declined to comment on who would attend the dinner. Trump’s spouse Melania Trump will come along with the president in Buenos, Aires. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, national security adviser John Bolton, and Kudlow will also be at the G20 summit.
Trump has a tight schedule of bilateral meetings in Argentina, including one with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump is also set to partake in a signing ceremony for the trade agreement with Mexico and Canada that replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement, Kudlow said. Details on the date for the ceremony were not immediately available.
As far as the formal G20 discussions go, Kudlow said that the deputies were still working on a possible joint agreement, known as a communiqué.
“I don’t think anybody in our team is on pins and needles about the communiqué. If we got one, it’s got to be something we agree with. If we didn’t get one, there’d be no tears shed,” he said.