Trump dampens chances of trade deal with China

President Donald Trump during a briefing with senior military leaders at the White House. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)
President Donald Trump during a briefing with senior military leaders at the White House. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)

US and Chinese officials will hold further trade talks in Washington on Friday, the White House said, after US President Donald Trump discounted the chances of reaching a deal to avert a trade war.

Trump met with a Chinese delegation headed by Vice Premier Liu He on Thursday as talks aimed at easing frictions between the economic powers got underway.

"The two sides agreed to continue the discussions on Friday," the White House said.

But speaking earlier in the day about the prospects for the talks to be successful, Trump was not optimistic, saying: "I tend to doubt it."

"China has become very spoiled... Because they always got 100% of whatever they wanted from the United States," he said.

Barrage of criticism

Trump unleashed a barrage of criticism against former US administrations for allowing Beijing to take advantage of the US.

"We have been ripped off by China. And an evacuation of wealth like no country has ever seen before given to another country that's rebuilt itself based on a lot of the money that they've taken out of the United States," he said.

"Trade has been a total one-way street," Trump said. "And I explained to [China's] President Xi [Jinping] that we can't do that anymore."

Trump also had harsh words for the European Union, which is likewise at loggerheads with Washington over US export tariffs on steel and aluminium.

"The European Union has been terrible to the United States on trade," he said. "They've been terrible to our workers."

China's Liu met held talks with Trump and other top US officials, saying the two countries should "meet each other halfway, respect each other, and work together to push forward bilateral ties in a healthy and stable manner", according to China's official Xinhua news service.

The US has threatened to impose 25% punitive duties on up to $150bn in Chinese goods while China has targeted $50bn in American exports.

'Various possibilities'

In Beijing, the Commerce Ministry said China hoped the two sides could resolve the trade frictions through talks.

"But of course we've prepared a response for various possibilities," spokesperson Gao Feng said at a press briefing.

The meetings, part of a busy week of US trade negotiations and tight deadlines in Washington, have become enmeshed in political intrigue after a Trump advisor considered a hardliner on China was left out.

Trump economic aide Peter Navarro, who was seen as having a more dominant role following the departure of White House economic advisor Gary Cohn over trade issues, was left off the list of participants, unlike for the talks in Beijing two weeks ago.

According to press reports, Navarro sparred with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin over his handling of the China talks and was barred from attending the meetings this week.

Trump has also faced accusations of quid-pro-quo after vowing to soften punitive US sanctions on the Chinese telecoms equipment firm ZTE - an announcement which came after AFP reported a Chinese state firm would pour cash into a Trump-tied real estate venture in Indonesia.

Trump, however, has denied weakening the US stance toward ZTE, and repeated on Thursday that he told Xi he would "take a look at that".

"But anything we do with ZTE is a small component of the overall deal."

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