US trade talks with China on 'hiatus,' Commerce Secretary Ross says

  • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Wednesday that U.S.-China trade talks are on hiatus.
  • "It appears as though we may be in something of a hiatus now," Ross said during an interview on CNBC.
  • President Donald Trump, in an appearance on Fox Business Network shortly afterward, said he did not believe the two countries were ready to start talking again.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Wednesday that U.S.-China trade talks are on hiatus.

"I don't know that I would call it a continued impasse. We are where we are. And in any negotiation, there are ups and downs," Ross said. "There are hiatuses and there are much more active periods. So, it appears as though we may be in something of a hiatus now."

President Donald Trump, in an appearance on Fox Business Network shortly afterward, said he did not believe the two countries were ready to start talking again.

"They want to make a deal. I said you guys are not ready yet," Trump said. "You're just not ready because look, they have been taking $500 billion a year out of our country. It is time that we stopped."

The U.S. and China, the world's two largest economies, have been engaged for months in a trade dispute. On Sunday, the president's top economic advisor Larry Kudlow said the relationship between the two countries "has not been positive lately."

In August, a senior administration official told CNBC that there had been "zero" engagement with China despite reports that the two countries were ramping up talks.

American and Chinese officials have suggested that the leaders of the two countries may be able to advance talks at the upcoming G-20 summit in Argentina. Asked about that possibility, Ross suggested it was unlikely that much would be accomplished there.

"Meetings of world leaders at the G-20 never get into huge amounts of detail," Ross said.

"You can't do a multi-thousand page trade agreement in an hour," he added.

Ross's comments came as the Trump administration announced that it intended to pull out of a 144-year-old United Nations postal agreement that the administration said gave countries, including China, unfair advantages over domestic shippers including the U.S. Postal Service.

During the interview, Ross also suggested that China may have had political motivations for killing the $44 billion deal between American chipmaker Qualcomm and NXP over the summer. Qualcomm was planning to acquire the company, but terminated the deal after Chinese regulators did not grant approval.

"The Chinese say that was not related to trade disputes, but you never know," Ross said. "All I know is everybody else approved it, but they turned it down."

Chinese officials have said the decision not to sign off on the deal was limited to the enforcement of antitrust laws, and had nothing to do with the United States.

Asked to weigh in on the controversy over the missing Saudi Arabian dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Ross declined to "get out ahead of the rest of the U.S. government."

"Let's just see how it plays out," he said.

Turkish authorities have accused the Saudis of killing and dismembering Khashoggi when he visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month. The Saudi government has denied involvement in the alleged killing.