How the Government Shutdown Might Stall U.S.-China Trade Talks

January 11, 2019, 12:25 PM UTC

China’s Vice Premier Liu He plans to meet his U.S. counterparts to follow up on-going trade talks by mid-level officials at the end of January, the U.S. Treasury Secretary said Thursday.

That’s if the U.S. government has re-opened by then. The government is in the midst of a partial shutdown that could delay talks, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing anonymous officials.

Independent outsiders following the deal are also suffering from a lack of access to crucial U.S.-China trade data, due to the shutdown of government econometric agencies. “The trade data right now is both interesting and important, because it’s an easy way of measuring and evaluating the impact of Trump’s trade policies,” former Treasury economist Brad Setser told Business Insider: “It’s missed.”

If it continues through Saturday, this shutdown will set a record in the U.S. government’s long history of shutdowns.

U.S. President Donald Trump wrote Tuesday that this week’s mid-level talks were “going very well.” Other top officials on both sides also expressed optimism about the outcome.

The two economic giants are halfway through a 90-day truce they called at the G20 summit on December 1. If successful, the talks could prevent the U.S. from imposing tariffs of 25% on $200 billion of Chinese imports. Trump’s tariffs currently stand at 10%.

The U.S. accuses China of providing too much state support to its companies, in the form of subsidies, industrial espionage, and barriers to entry for foreign companies in China. There are already signs that China’s economy has been faltering from the effects of the tariffs, while Chinese tech companies are under pressure over allegations of spying — including two arrests in Poland Friday.

“We have the two sides back at the table. That’s encouraging,” said Myron Brilliant, head of international affairs for the business group U.S. Chamber of Commerce, at a Thursday press event.