A trade deal could come in weeks, but it won't remove 'contentious' issues, says former US diplomat

Key Points
  • Kurt Campbell, chairman and chief executive of The Asia Group, said he expects the U.S. and China to reach a trade agreement in the next four to six weeks.
  • But, having a trade deal will do little to improve relations between the U.S. and China over the longer term, Campbell said.
U.S. President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping leave a business leaders event at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 9, 2017.
Nicolas Asfouri | AFP | Getty Images

The U.S. and China could reach a trade agreement in a matter of weeks, but that's unlikely to improve relations between the two economic giants over the longer term, according to former U.S. diplomat.

The two largest economies in the world have been trying to negotiate a trade deal to iron out their differences on issues such as the forced transfer of technology from American firms to China, Beijing's subsidies for its domestic companies, and a trade imbalance between China and the U.S.

"I think we'll see a deal — I think both countries understand that it's in each of their best interests. I expect something to be done in the next four to six weeks," Kurt Campbell, chairman and chief executive of advisory firm The Asia Group, told CNBC's Martin Soong on Sunday at the China Development Forum in Beijing.

Campbell added that the eventual deal would address a number of "contentious" issues between the U.S. and China. But there are other conflicts that can't be solved in the short term, he said, though he did not specify what those issues are.

"I expect tensions will continue between the United States and China," said Campbell, who served as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs during the administration of President Barack Obama.

The U.S. and China have engaged in a tariff fight that began last year. The administration of President Donald Trump imposed additional tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese imports, while Beijing slapped duties on $110 billion of American goods.

Several experts have pointed out that friction between the U.S. and China goes beyond trade.

Billionaire investor Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater Associates, told CNBC last year that the two countries' vastly different governing methods make up the broader, more difficult issue to reconcile.

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