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AMERICAN ECONOMY........Talks with China could avert trade war - White House

The Trump administration this week has held out the idea that negotiations with China could be a way to avoid a trade war that would punish U.S. farmers and high-tech companies, but so far, it hasn't offered any indication of when those talks might happen or how successful they might be.

U.S. trade officials this week announced an initial list of $50 billion in Chinese goods it is considering hitting with tariffs, in response to China's continued theft of U.S. intellectual property rights and its forced technology transfer.

They haven't taken effect yet, but China warned hours later that it would impose its own tariffs on U.S. goods if Trump pulls the trigger.

It might still be a few months before the tariffs actually take effect, and in the meantime, top Trump officials have tried to assuage uneasy market by saying the whole fight could be negotiated away. But beyond that general idea, there are no specifics.

When asked if there are any meetings planned with China, the U.S. Trade Representative's office told the Washington Examiner there are "no updates to announce."

The Commerce Department had no comment about future plans to talk it over with China, even though Secretary Wilbur Ross opened the door to the idea this week.

"It wouldn't be surprising at all if the net outcome of all this is some sort of a negotiation," Ross said. "Whether that happens by May or happens at some other time, that's a whole other question."

And the White House referred the Washington Examiner to comments from National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, who indicated Wednesday that some negotiation is possible but outlined no other details.

"What I can say here is President Trump has a very good relationship, as you know, with president Xi [Jinping] and President Xi's Cabinet and Cabinet advisers and we will all be involved over a period of time," he said on Fox Business News.

On Thursday, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley argued that Trump himself is "the best negotiator on the planet," but stressed that he would not "get ahead of any negotiations."

While the U.S. and China do have the option of scaling back their brewing trade battle, Trump may find it difficult to do so, no matter how much negotiating happens. Trump's tariffs were proposed as a way to retaliate against China's IPR theft, an issue that has plagued U.S.-China relations for decades now.

U.S. administrations have generally gotten nowhere trying to get China to respect IPR rights in the past.

Trump is also justifying tariffs against China by pointing to the country's policy of technology transfer, under which China requires companies to manufacture their goods there as a condition of selling within China. But that has also been a thorny issue over the last few decades and one that the U.S. hasn't been able to crack.

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