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Temptation to ‘game the system’ could derail US-China trade deal, says former American official

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A trade deal between the United States and China — which may be just around the corner — could be derailed by a “temptation to game the system,” a former U.S. diplomat and ambassador told CNBC on Friday.

While there’s a “strong likelihood” that the two sides will be able to hammer out a deal, there are a few factors that could derail its prospects, said Frank Lavin, who formerly served as U.S. under secretary of commerce for international trade.

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There’s always a temptation for someone to game the system. If you and I are in an agreement, and we’re there and we’re going to sign tomorrow, I always have an incentive to say, ‘Why don’t I just take my offer down one percent?’ And you’re already at the table, you’re already set for celebration, and let me just see if I can do this,

said Lavin, who is now chief executive of business consultancy Export Now.

In particular, there’s potential for “gamesmanship” when it comes to trade concessions that will be “painful for China,” involving the trickier intellectual property issues, according to Lavin, who was also U.S. ambassador to Singapore.

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