Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Thursday that the U.S. and China have “miles and miles” of negotiations ahead to resolve a trade war before higher tariffs are set to kick in March 1.
“We’re miles and miles from getting a resolution,” Mr. Ross said on CNBC. “That shouldn’t be too surprising. Trade is very complicated.”
A Chinese trade delegation is scheduled to visit Washington next week, after talks were delayed. Mr. Ross didn’t sound optimistic that the two sides will reach agreement on issues such as enforcement mechanisms and penalties for violating any deal.
“We have until March 1, that’s when the new tariffs are supposed to go in — the increase from 10 to 25 percent,” he said. “There’s quite a little bit of time between now and then to judge just where do we stand — is it worth going forward, or have we reached an impasse?”
A top White House official, economic adviser Larry Kudlow, downplayed Mr. Ross’s assessment, citing a Robert Frost poem.
“Wilbur meant ‘miles to go before we sleep,’ that’s what he meant,” Mr. Kudlow told CNBC.
The head of the National Economic Council said the upcoming negotiations with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will be “very important,” but “not the end of the game.”
“Open up your economy, we’ll export like crazy,” Mr. Kudlow said of the U.S. message to China.
China’s economy had its worst year in nearly three decades in 2018, Beijing reported Monday. Unless both sides strike a deal to end the trade war, U.S. tariff rates on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods will rise to 25 percent from their current 10 percent.
President Trump said China “very much wants to make a deal.”
“They’re not doing very well because of the tariffs,” the president said Wednesday. “Fairly soon, the deal that I made with them [suspending tariff increases] will come off. The tariffs will be substantially increased on China.
“I like where we are right now. We’re doing great as an economy.”