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17.07.2019 15:20

China may be signaling it’s going hard-line, but it still wants a trade deal - ex-Trump negotiator

China may have just signaled it’s going more hard-line on trade, but it could actually be a good thing, former top White House trade negotiator Clete Willems, told.

Beijing added a new member to its negotiating team last week: Commerce minister Zhong Shan, who’s seen by many officials in Washington as a hard-liner. It could be a sign that Chinese leader Xi Jinping is standing firm on trade, analysts say.

By adding Zhong to the negotiating team, it shows that Xi is trying to win over the hard-liners, said Willems, who left his role as deputy director of the National Economic Council (NEC) in March.

“China has now elevated its commerce minister Zhong Shan and made him a part of the core negotiating team along with (Vice Premier) Liu He. A lot of people are nervous — he’s seen as a hard-liner,” Willems told.

But he’s not overly concerned. “I actually think it’s a good thing because what it shows is that President Xi is trying to get buy-in from both the hard-line within China and the reformers, which is going to be necessary ingredients for a deal,” Willems said.

“President Xi is only going to be able to get a deal if the hard-liners are bought in,” he added.


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