Cui Tiankai, the Chinese ambassador to the United States, said on Sunday that it’s “very confusing” trying to discern who has U.S. President Donald Trump’s ear on trade policy, as China-U.S. relations continue to come under strain over the issue.
In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Cui was asked for his take on the Trump administration’s approach to trade.
“Are you clear who President Trump listens to on trade issues, whether it’s moderates like Kudlow and Mnuchin or hard-liners like Navarro?” host Chris Wallace asked, referring to White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and trade adviser Peter Navarro.
Cui replied: “You tell me.”
“Honestly, I’ve been talking to ambassadors of other countries in Washington, D.C., and this is also part of their problem,” Cui continued. “They don’t know who is the final decision-maker. Of course, presumably the president will take the final decision. But who is playing what role? Sometimes, it could be very confusing.”
U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping will "probably" meet at a G20 summit next month. On the agenda, presumably will be the deteriorating trade ties which has led both countries to slapping massive tariffs on each other's imports.
But, Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow said trade talks with China – with each side imposing a mounting series of tariffs on the other, raising fears of a shock to the global economy – had so far been "unsatisfactory."
"The relationship has not been positive lately," Kudlow said.
The China-U.S. bilateral has seen a downswing of ties not just in trade but also in security matters. Earlier this month, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence issued a long litany of complaints against China. He accused Beijing of "predatory" trade practices, of military "aggression," of massive attacks on personal freedoms and religious minorities, and even of electoral interference aimed at unseating Trump by running ads in American newspapers.
Cui replied on Fox that Chinese media were "just learning from American media to use all these means to buy commercial pages from newspapers," adding, "This is a normal practice for all the media."
But the Chinese ambassador also held out hope for the G20 Buenos Aires meeting.
Two earlier meetings between the presidents, he said, had made it "clear that such top-level communication played a key role, irreplaceable role in guiding the relationship forward. And there is good mutual understanding and good working relationship between the two.”