(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said he doubts the U.S. and China can come to an agreement over trade, as the world’s largest economies resumed negotiations to avoid a damaging trade war.
“Will that be successful? I tend to doubt it,” Trump said during a press briefing on Thursday with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. “The reason I doubt it is because China’s become very spoiled. The European Union has become very spoiled. Other countries have become very spoiled.”
Trump began a private meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He at 4 p.m. on Thursday in the Oval Office, according to the White House.
Trump also said on Thursday that his decision to order a review of U.S. penalties on China’s ZTE Corp. came directly at the request of Chinese President Xi Jinping. “The president of China, President Xi, asked me to look at it. I said I would look at it,” said Trump “But anything we do with ZTE is always -- it’s just a small component of the overall deal.
In a surprise move, Trump on Sunday said that the U.S. was considering ways to help get ZTE ‘’back in business fast,” fueling speculation of a softening of his get-tough position on China. The Commerce Department blocked ZTE’s access to U.S. suppliers last month, saying the company violated a 2017 sanctions settlement related to trading with Iran and North Korea and then lied about the violations.
The U.S. and China are expected to exchange new proposals during the top-level talks on Thursday and Friday in Washington, Kudlow said. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is leading the talks with Liu, along with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, according to the White House.
Mnuchin led a delegation to Beijing earlier this month for negotiations, but they failed to make progress.
Kudlow said the U.S. focus is on China opening market access to U.S. companies by lowering their trading barriers and addressing American concerns over the theft of intellectual property. “American ownership of its own companies in China must be permitted,” Kudlow said. “We are going to have serious talks dealing with a difficult trade situation that needs to be fixed.”
Kudlow played down any internal divisions over White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, a fierce China critic, participating in the talks this week. Navarro is now expected to take part in the negotiations, a shift from an earlier plan to exclude him over concerns about his behavior on the trip to Beijing two weeks ago, according to two administration officials.
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.