Little progress has been made following two days of talks in Washington last week regarding the ongoing trade spat between the US and China.

The discussions, which were held on Thursday (23 August), coincided with the Trump administration’s imposition of an additional 25% tariff on another US$16bn worth of imports from China.

China immediately retaliated with a 25% tax on US goods of the same value. The moves bring the amount levied to a combined $100bn since the first round of tariffs went into effect in July – $50bn from each side.

The US is trying to punish China for what it claims are unfair trade practices, such as stealing intellectual property (IP), with Trump threatening further tariffs on US$200bn of Chinese goods. The tariffs, which China has vowed to retaliate against by levying duties on $60bn of US goods, could take effect by early September.

US retailers urged the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) to reject the additional tariffs last week, claiming the enforcement would not make China change its unfair trade practices but would instead hurt American consumers.

However, the latest efforts to bring an end to the escalating trade spat seem to have been fruitless; an outcome President Trump predicted last week telling Reuters he did not “anticipate much” from the discussions, which involved lower-level officials than in previous rounds. Resolving the dispute will “take time because China’s done too well for too long, and they’ve become spoiled,” he had said.

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According to an article published by The New York Times on 23 August, there were no signs of an imminent breakthrough during the discussions and no further talks have been scheduled as of yet. 

A Trump administration spokeswoman said the two sides “exchanged views on how to achieve fairness, balance, and reciprocity in the economic relationship, including by addressing structural issues in China such as those identified in the Section 301 report.”

Meanwhile, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was quoted as calling the talks “relatively low-level, relatively exploratory sessions” that “are not destined as of today for a big breakthrough.”

A Chinese Commerce Ministry statement said the talks were “constructive and frank” but provided no further details. It did, however, say the two sides will “maintain contact for the next step.”