Trump-Xi Summit Set For April 6; Trade Deficit On The Front-Burner

BE2C2 Report — The White House confirms that President Trump will host Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-A-Lago in Florida on April 6.

“The two leaders will discuss global, regional, and bilateral issues of mutual concern,” notes WH press secretary Sean Spicer.

The tone of the comments following the meeting will be closely watched, according to Seeking Alpha, after China was accused repeatedly by Trump of unfair trade practices during the presidential election runup.

Ahead of his meeting with Xi,Trump Wednesday afternoon signed two trade-related executive orders aimed at combating foreign trade abuses that contribute to the US’s half-trillion-dollar trade deficit. — its trade deficit with China was $347 billion in 2016, the largest in the world.

One of the executive orders calls for a large-scale review within 90 days of all U.S. trade deficits with some of its largest trading partners (China is its largest trading partner) and order stricter enforcement of US anti-dumping laws to prevent foreign manufacturers from undercutting US companies by selling goods at an unfair price. The orders marked Trump’s latest attempt to follow through on his campaign rhetoric decrying other countries for taking advantage of the US’ trade policies.

The report will look to determine the extent to which the US trade deficit is a factor of cheating, unfair trading practices and currency imbalances.

The other order is directed at better enforcement of already-existing penalties and their recovery which according to a report is close to $3 billion uncollected since 2001.

The signings come just days before Xi visits the U.S.

But “let’s not make this a China story,” the White house Trade Council Director Peter Navarro said at a press briefing.

“These actions are designed to let the world know that this is a president taking another step to fulfill his campaign promise,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

And moments before the briefing got underway, Trump took to Twitter to proclaim that his meeting with Xi next week will be “a very difficult one.”

China, the largest source of the US’s trade deficit, has repeatedly run afoul of the US’ anti-dumping laws, and Trump has repeatedly accused the country of hurting the US economy through unfair trading practices.

Despite the worry about a possible showdown between the top two economies due to the U.S. complaints about its trade deficits with China, Douglas Paal, vice president for studies and director of Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was somewhat optimistic that such scenario would not become a reality.

Still, there are trade issues that need to be addressed, Paal said in an interview with Chinese news agency Xinhua, adding that the Trump administration has to prioritize all the issues with China, whether it’s market access, technology transfer, investment, or anti-dumping measures.

Paal believed China understands this and has prepared well for it as it is willing to consider measures, including increasing investment and buying more American goods, technologies and bonds, “to help the American economy and help balance the strong imbalance in the U.S.-China trade.”

So far Trump has not taken aggressive actions toward China despite his tough talk during and after the campaign, Paal said. As a former businessman, Trump may try to hold talks first to “start the tone and certainly trust” before getting to the hard issues, he added.

Such talks could get very tough, and if they do not go well, the Trump administration could harden its stance toward China, he cautioned.

A US Trade Representative Report shows that the US’s substantive complaints against China are not much different from what they have been for years. So while painting China as an enemy to be vanquished worked on his campaign trail, it may not be so productive at the Trump-Xi first major summit, wrote Heather Timmons, Quartz’s (QZ) White House correspondent.

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