U.S. and China May Be Headed for Mini-Deal on Trade This Week

on Oct10
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It is unclear whether the provisions that might be announced this week would be new, or how much they might change China’s economic actions.

In meetings in February, China and the United States agreed to avoid devaluing their currency to make their products cheaper abroad and give their exporters an advantage, Chinese officials said in March. They also agreed to continue to comply with previous currency agreements among the Group of 20 countries, and disclose detailed information in accordance with standards set by the International Monetary Fund.

But this and other agreements were put off in late April, when the Chinese changed the draft trade agreement and American officials accused them of reneging on a pact that was nearly complete. Since then, relations have steadily worsened. In August, the Treasury Department formally labeled China a currency manipulator after Beijing allowed its currency to weaken — a decline that many economists said was done in line with market forces.

Since then, both sides have brandished a series of carrots and sticks in an attempt to pressure each other into a favorable deal. China resumed buying American agricultural goods last month, after ceasing its purchases to put more pressure on American farmers. Chinese officials also quietly dropped earlier public demands that any deal must immediately get rid of all of Mr. Trump’s levies, paving the way for a potential interim agreement.

Mr. Trump said last month that he would delay a round of tariff increases from Oct. 1 to Oct. 15. Last week, he gave a green light for his administration to issue some licenses allowing American companies to supply goods to the Chinese telecom firm Huawei, which he previously put on a blacklist barring it from buying American goods.

But other interim measures have ratcheted up the tension. The Trump administration announced on Monday that it would add 28 more entities to that blacklist, including some of China’s leading artificial intelligence firms. On Tuesday, the State Department announced visa restrictions for Chinese officials accused of involvement in human rights abuses.

Many uncertainties remain in the trade talks. In particular, China has appeared unwilling to make many of the more significant changes to its economy that the Trump administration has demanded, including restraining its subsidies to state-owned firms and allowing for the flow of data across its borders.

Mr. Brilliant said on Thursday that China’s promises on intellectual property still revolved around “20th century” issues, like copyrights for movies and software, rather than “21st century” issues involving the use of data. He said that while there could be an announcement on intellectual property this week, it appeared that more fundamental concerns about China’s treatment of technology would not be addressed.

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