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Can the US and China Make a Deal?

Driven by domestic nationalist forces and the need to save face, US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, have continued to escalate the bilateral trade war, despite their shared interest in resolving it before the end of the year. To make a deal, both sides need to start taking substantive steps immediately.

NEW YORK – Now that the celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China are over, it is time to direct attention back to the Sino-American trade war. That conflict may well be about to enter its endgame. Indeed, the next round of negotiations could be the last real chance to find a way through the trade, technology, and wider economic imbroglio that has been engulfing both countries.

Failing that, the world should start preparing for its rockiest economic ride since the 2008 global financial crisis. There is a real risk that America will slide into recession, and that the global economy will experience a broader decoupling that will poison the well for Sino-American relations far into the future. There is also a widening window of opportunity for nationalist constituencies in both countries to argue that conflict is inevitable.

Thus far, the trade war has gone through four phases. Phase one began last March, when US President Donald Trump announced the first round of import tariffs on Chinese goods. Phase two arrived with the “Argentine reset” at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires last December, when Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that they would conclude an agreement within 90 days. That truce imploded in early May of this year, with each side accusing the other of demanding major last-minute changes to the draft agreement.

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