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Rhetoric Indicates A Solution To U.S.-China Trade War Won't Happen Soon


Envoys for the U.S. and China clashed this week at a World Trade Organization meeting in Geneva, blaming each other for disregarding WTO rules. As NPR's Rob Schmitz reports, rhetoric from both sides is diminishing hope for a breakthrough when President Trump meets Chinese leader Xi Jinping later this month.

ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: Deputy U.S. Trade Representative and WTO Ambassador Dennis Shea said China was using the WTO to promote nonmarket policies, policies that have distorted world markets and led to massive excess capacity in the global supply of commodities like steel and aluminum. A Chinese official shot back, saying the U.S. was blaming China to disguise its own violations of WTO rules. The curt exchange on Wednesday is the latest example of a souring mood between the world's two largest economies. The clock's winding down to an important meeting between President Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina at the end of the month - a meeting that many hoped could lead to a deal that could prevent a trade war between the two from getting even worse.

ARTHUR KROEBER: I think people in the U.S. government are just, like, fed up with all of the WTO commitments that China made and then essentially evaded where they promised to do this, that and the other thing, and then basically did nothing.

SCHMITZ: Arthur Kroeber is author of "China's Economy: What Everyone Needs To Know." He says he's not holding out hope for a deal between the U.S. and China anytime soon.

KROEBER: There's a very strong feeling, I think, throughout many aspects of the U.S. government that China is not a trustworthy interlocutor. They've made commitments that are not meaningful and that they don't follow through on and that it is just not worth having more conversations.

SCHMITZ: Kroeber calls the notion that Trump and Xi will reach a breakthrough at the G-20 a big nothing burger, and he expects U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports to increase from 10 percent to 25 percent on the first day of 2019 as scheduled. Time is running out for negotiations between the two sides. China's lead trade negotiator, Liu He, has just announced he'll visit Germany in the days leading up to the G-20, making it increasingly likely the U.S. and China will not be negotiating a deal anytime soon. Rob Schmitz, NPR News, Shanghai. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rob Schmitz is NPR's international correspondent based in Berlin, where he covers the human stories of a vast region reckoning with its past while it tries to guide the world toward a brighter future. From his base in the heart of Europe, Schmitz has covered Germany's levelheaded management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of right-wing nationalist politics in Poland and creeping Chinese government influence inside the Czech Republic.