On December 3, 2018, Ashley Craig was quoted in Inside U.S. Trade about the possibility of a mid-December U.S.-China trade deal after the U.S. and China reached a long-expected ceasefire deal, with success pending on the Trump administration's ability to present a unified front as it negotiates with Beijing.
According to the article, industry experts are looking to mid-December, when China commemorates the 40th anniversary of its Reform era, which coincides with the anniversary of diplomatic relations with the U.S. If President Xi Jinping does not announce major reforms on Dec. 18, then the trade deal is not likely to happen. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will lead the talks the White House confirmed.
But standing between Trump and any superficial deal with China is Lighthizer, who sees this as his best chance to force real change in China's behavior, Mr. Craig said. Lighthizer, he said, thinks "We've got them in a position where we have high ground, we need to extract maximum reward, and are we really going to get it right now?"
According to the article, there is also a question as to whether tariffs can be legally delayed, but a case is unlikely to be brought against the decision. The recently issued and updated Section 301 report could block any legal challenges against the tariffs.
But prevailing in court will be tough, Craig said, calling Lighthizer a wily practitioner with a steel-trap mind honed by decades representing the industry. "Ambassador Lighthizer is gifted in ways that only a few in terms of the trade bar are, having been groomed in the early ‘80s in the Reagan White House and doing battle against the Japanese and then having spent the next 35 plus years in private practice defending U.S. domestic concerns primarily steel-related," Craig said. "He is a truly gifted practitioner and knows the trade laws in ways that very few do, so he's got that advantage, but ultimately it comes down to there being deference given to the administration under the statute."