The trade talks between Americans and Chinese resumed Thursday in Washington in the biggest blur and under the most fatal auspices between a volley of sanctions against Beijing and the outcry provoked by the NBA, the North American basketball league.
To add to the confusion: unverified rumors, announcements without follow-up, sometimes contradictory, make each time move the markets.
As in previous rounds of bargaining, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will lead discussions with a Chinese delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Liu He.
They must speak to each other on Thursday and Friday, after several days of preparatory talks between senior officials in the US capital.
There is nothing official about the agenda and even less about the current state of negotiations.
Monday, by formally announcing the resumption of talks, the White House seemed to want to kill in the bud the speculations on a much less ambitious agreement that the two parties still trumpeted in the spring.
The Trump administration ensures that all topics will be on the table: forced technology transfer, intellectual property rights, non-tariff barriers, agriculture and enforcement.
It is this broad agreement that Donald Trump still wants to obtain, having unleashed, a little over a year ago, a trade war that is having its deleterious effects on the entire global economy.
- "Great agreement" -
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that the confrontation with tariffs between the first and the second world economy will erase 0.8% of global GDP by 2020, the equivalent of the Swiss economy .
The growth of the planet "is now experiencing a synchronized slowdown," IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva lamented on Tuesday, pointing to global trade, whose growth has come to a standstill.
The effects of the trade war on the US economy have become tangible, with the manufacturing sector in recession and the Central Bank dropping rates to keep pace with the slowdown.
But the US president says a "big deal" is achievable. "There is really a good chance of an agreement," he said on Wednesday. He even assured that China was more in favor of an agreement than Washington. "They want an agreement, the question is: do I want an agreement?", He said.
Some US media have claimed that the Chinese authorities have significantly reduced the scope of litigation they are willing to address this week. But the White House ensures that all topics will be addressed, including that of grants to Chinese state enterprises, that Beijing would not wish to discuss.
- Under pressure -
In a few days, the atmosphere between Washington and Beijing has deteriorated markedly but this time outside the commercial sphere.
Friday, the tweet of a leader of a professional basketball league club, the NBA, in favor of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, caused an immediate and brutal reaction of power in Beijing.
The cancellation of television broadcasts of matches, harsh criticism by the spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry and remarks by the boss of the NBA defending the freedom of expression have put oil on fire.
The NBA is extremely popular in China, which represents a multi-billion dollar market for the league.
Then it is Washington that has, one after another, put companies on a blacklist of exports and announced visa restrictions for some Chinese officials to punish Beijing for its treatment of the Muslim minority Uighurs.
Among the sanctioned companies are leading figures in Chinese technology such as the company specializing in Hikvision video surveillance and artificial intelligence companies Megvii Technology and SenseTime.
The negotiations will be held just before the deadline of October 15: at that date, a new increase in customs duties on $ 250 billion of Chinese goods could come into force.
Campaigning for re-election, Donald Trump recently assured that he did not need a trade deal with Beijing before the November 2020 vote.
When he fought with Beijing, he said loud and clear that trade wars were "easy to win".
© 2019 AFP