Opinion

Does the US or China Have More Leverage in Ongoing Trade Talks

Amy Celico

NPR’s Audie Cornish talks with former China trade negotiator Amy Celico about who has the upper hand in the current round of trade talks, China or the U.S.

AUDIE CORNISH, Host: Next we’re going to hear from someone who’s negotiated on trade policy with China. Amy Celico worked on China trade policy under President George W. Bush. She now advises U.S. companies who are doing business in China. Thank you for coming into the studio.

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AMY CELICO: Great to be with you.

CORNISH: From the point of view of you and your clients, these tariffs – have they kind of hurt China and been a win for the U.S., put us in a better position for these trade talks?

CELICO: Well, I certainly agree with President Trump that that does give the U.S. side leverage. The Chinese certainly don’t want these tariffs to continue as they’re looking at their own economy softening. And the tariffs will continue to hurt and hurt in a much more significant way if the tariff rate goes up on March 1. And so there is an incentive for the Chinese to want to make a deal. However, I think in the U.S., President Trump and the administration also face pressures to find a way forward rather than simply walking away from a deal and increasing the tariffs because that would hurt our economy, too.

CORNISH: What are some of those pressures?

CELICO: Some of those pressures of course are the fact that American businesses want to be in China. They want to be – American farmers, American companies want to be trading with China. And without having what will become this year the largest consumer market in the world – China – as a market for our goods and services, our companies will face pressure. And the stock market will dip. And as we have seen over the past few months, the administration is sensitive to those fluctuations in the markets.

CORNISH: What can you tell us about China to help us understand what it means to sit down and negotiate, especially when you’re talking about issues that are bigger than, say, as Scott reported, a soybean order – right? – trying to get at longtime structural grievances that the U.S. has had, whether it’s market access or intellectual property theft?

CELICO: Like you said, Audie, these are longtime concerns that the U.S. government has had with China. And so I have a lot of sympathy for the negotiators on the U.S. side right now trying to make progress where progress hasn’t been achieved in the past. The Chinese government is looking in a more long-term way at these issues about what it is willing to give. The impact on the domestic economy…

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