Hong Kong (CNN) The Trump administration has offered China a new chance to talk trade as US officials prepare to impose steep tariffs on a huge range of Chinese goods.
“There’s some discussions and information that we’ve received that the Chinese government — the top of the Chinese government — wished to pursue talks,” top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Wednesday on Fox Business. “And so, Secretary [Steven] Mnuchin, who is the team leader with China, has apparently issued an invitation.”
Kudlow declined to provide further details on the potential talks, stressing that “it’s just an invitation” at this stage. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier Wednesday that Mnuchin, the US Treasury secretary, had sent the offer to a group of Chinese officials led by Vice Premier Liu He, the top economic adviser to President Xi Jinping.
The Treasury Department didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday. China’s Commerce and Foreign ministries didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday in Beijing.
The proposal of new high-level talks comes as the trade war between the world’s top two economies appears set to intensify. President Donald Trump said last week that new tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods could go into effect “very soon” and warned that another, even bigger wave of measures is “ready to go on short notice if I want.”
The two economic superpowers have already imposed tariffs of 25% on more than $50 billion of each other’s exports this year.
The next round of US tariffs on Chinese goods is likely to make thousands of products — ranging from dishwashers to Fitbit fitness trackers and food seasonings — more expensive for American consumers. China has vowed to retaliate with tariffs on another $60 billion of US exports, including meat, coffee, furniture and auto parts.
Trade negotiations last month involving less senior officials from the two countries ended without any breakthroughs. A previous series of negotiations involving Mnuchin, Kudlow and other top economic officials fell apart as Trump pressed ahead with plans to impose tariffs.
With the $200 billion round of tariffs looming, “this is probably the best time for the US to go back to the table with a ‘take it or leave it’ type of trade demand,” Robert Carnell, chief Asia-Pacific economist at investment bank ING, said in a note to clients on Thursday.
China’s economy is slowing down, and new waves of US tariffs threaten to hurt its huge export industry. The trade war has also weighed on Chinese financial markets.
But analysts have expressed skepticism that China will give ground on some of the Trump administration’s key concerns, including Chinese efforts to get hold of US technology and Beijing’s ambitious industrial policies.