U.S. and Chinese negotiators have apparently hit a snag in trade negotiations, as talks between the two countries, originally scheduled for the week of Jan. 22, were canceled due to lingering issues over intellectual property enforcement, according to a report by CNBC, citing a source.
The canceled planning meeting between American and Chinese negotiators was said to be a preliminary discussion ahead of high-level talks slated to begin Jan. 30 between U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, according to CNBC, citing a source.
However, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow later flatly denied that intermediary meetings were ever scheduled. "With respect, the story is not true," Kudlow told CNBC the afternoon of Jan. 22. "There was never a planned meeting."
"We are in constant communication with Chinese officials," Kudlow said, adding that end-of-the-month high-level meetings are still scheduled as planned. "I don't know where people got this idea. I'm here to deny it. There is no cancellations. Zero."
The White House told CNBC that the high-level trade talks are still planned as scheduled, the news outlet reported.
USTR spokesman Jeff Emerson declined to comment on the report to S&P Global Market Intelligence.
Intellectual property rules enforcement was at the heart of the U.S. Trade Representative's Section 301 investigation, which found that Beijing engaged in forced technology transfers of American companies doing business there. It now appears to be a sticking point.
There have been several weeks of positive developments between the two countries, which have been at economic odds under much of the Trump administration's two-year tenure.
According to a Jan. 18 Bloomberg News report, China offered to increase its annual goods purchases from the U.S. by a combined value of more than $1 trillion through 2024. A Jan. 17 report from The Wall Street Journal said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin proposed dialing back or completely removing tariffs on Chinese goods in order to bring the two sides closer to a deal.
Another positive development came when Beijing said in December 2018 that it would start buying American rice for the first time.
The two countries are in a 90-day detente that began Dec. 1 after President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to not impose any further tariffs before a tentative March 1 deadline to reach a resolution in their ongoing trade spat.
Trump said that should a deal not be reached by that time, he would push forward with a scheduled rise in tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25% from the current 10% rate.
However, the tone appeared to sour this week, with Trump tweeting Jan. 21 that it "makes so much sense for China to finally do a real deal, and stop playing around."