The Wall Street Journal and Barron’s Quote Clete Willems on Prospects for Limited US-China Trade Deal, Likelihood of New Tariffs

The Wall Street Journal has quoted Akin Gump public law and policy partner Clete Willems in the article “China Stays Upbeat About Trade Deal With U.S.” The article reports that trade talks between the United States and China are going smoothly and a limited deal could be in the offing.

According to the article, Beijing and Washington are seeking an interim agreement that, for now, would stave off any U.S. tariff increases while China gives some assurance that its state companies would buy more U.S. farm products. Washington is also pressing Beijing to agree not to keep its currency undervalued to help its exporters and to toughen intellectual property protection. The Journal notes, however, that a more encompassing deal may not be very likely.

“The political conditions are no longer conducive to a big deal,” said Willems, a former White House trade negotiator. “That doesn’t mean an incremental deal is a bad thing. The U.S. can make progress on some issues while limiting escalation. From a broader standpoint, the two sides need to learn to work together.”

Willems told Barron’s, for the article “Don’t Expect the Next Round of Tariffs on China. Here’s Why,” that a recent move by China to lift a four-year-old ban on U.S. poultry imports was significant because it was a structural change, not just a one-time commitment to buy some farm products.

One complication, though, for any trade deal, according to Willems, is that the Chinese retaliated against U.S. tariffs with multiple layers of levies on farm goods like soybeans and pork. That makes it harder for both sides to step back by agreeing to lift the last two rounds of tariffs, for example.