China’s Vice-President Wang Qishan is likely to hold talks with US President Donald Trump at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting later this month, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The talks, on the sidelines of the Davos forum in Switzerland, which runs from January 22 to 25, would be the second high-level meeting between China and the United States in two months as they continue to seek to reduce trade tensions.
China’s President Xi Jinping and Trump agreed to a 90-day truce in their trade war on December 1 when they met at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. However, the US has threatened to increase its tariffs on Chinese imports on March 1 if Beijing does not meet its demands to resolve issues such as cyber intrusion and intellectual property theft.
Meanwhile, US deputy trade representative Jeffrey Gerrish will lead a delegation of American trade, agriculture and energy officials for talks with their Chinese counterparts in Beijing on Monday. Observers said that if those talks went well, more discussions between senior leaders would follow.
Trump said on Friday that China’s weakening economic growth put the US in a strong position ahead of any negotiations.
“I think we will make a deal with China. I really think they want to. I think they sort of have to,” he told reporters at the White House.
“China’s not doing well now. And it puts us in a very strong position. We are doing very well.
“I hope we’re going to make a deal with China. And if we don’t, they’re paying us tens of billions of dollars worth of tariffs – not the worst thing in the world.”
The South China Morning Post reported on Thursday that Wang would lead the Chinese delegation at the Davos meeting. Trump will be making his second appearance at the annual gathering. At last year’s meeting, Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He promised that China would open its markets wider to foreign investors, while a year earlier Xi voiced his support for globalisation.
At a forum in the south China city of Guangzhou last month, Wang, who has a reputation as a firefighter for tackling Beijing’s thorniest problems, launched a veiled attack on Trump’s trade policies, criticising the adoption of a “zero-sum” mindset. In November, he was similarly critical of unilateralism when speaking at an economic forum in Singapore.
Tao Wenzhao, an international relations expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the talks led by Gerrish would be crucial in setting the agenda for the meeting between Wang and Trump.
“The conclusions that come out of next week’s trade talks are expected to be confirmed by Wang and Trump in Davos at the end of January, and they will also explore new problems together,” he said.
“It is a process of gradually narrowing the discrepancies and building consensus before the end of February.”
Tao said he was not concerned that Wang, rather than Xi, would be attending the high level talks as he had the president’s full authority and was capable of delivering concrete results.