A US business lobby, speaking ahead of economic talks between the United States and China, said Washington may contemplate taking action against Beijing if more progress is not made in addressing trade disputes. China and the United States agreed to 100 days of trade talks after U.S. President Donald Trump met his counterpart, Xi Jinping, in April, aimed at cutting last year’s $347 billion U.S. trade deficit with the world’s second largest economy. But critics within U.S. industry have said that outcomes of the talks so far have yielded only superficial remedies and failed to address more pressing issues of Chinese market access restrictions and industrial policies. “We’re not a big fan of trade wars… but if the dialogue is not productive, there are some tools in the toolkit that (the U.S. government) could resort to,” Myron Brilliant, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told reporters in Beijing.
“There is some incremental progress being made. But it’s not enough… We need to get at some of the issues that are more difficult.” The deadline for the talks is July 16 and the first U.S.- China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue is due to be held later this year. Trade tension between the two countries subsided following the meeting of the two presidents as the United States looked for help from China in reining in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes, but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said that pressure is now building for further action on China’s part to improve market access for foreign firms. “This is not that hard for (China) to take action, and frankly there’s no reason – if they can compete in places like the U.S., if they can buy U.S. and European assets – that they’re not ready to open their market,” said Jeremie Waterman, the chamber’s executive director for Greater China.
China’s cyber security law that went into effect on June 1 remained a “very significant issue” for foreign companies, Waterman said, as it required local and overseas firms to submit to security checks and store user data within the country. “Every country has legitimate cyber security interests, but the policy measures that we’re seeing coming out of China seem to go well beyond what many other governments are doing,” he said. Waterman noted the difference between Chinese technology firms’ access to the U.S. market versus U.S. firms’ access to China, pointing out that Alibaba chairman Jack Ma was currently in the U.S. city of Detroit promoting his company’s services to U.S. firms. “Jack Ma is in Detroit right now, selling his platform even as he’s protected, highly protected, both in financial services and cloud (computing services),” he said. “Our companies are sitting on the sidelines (in the China market) because they are completely blocked.”