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2017-07-18 13:24:02
U.S. and Chinese Executives to Meet on Nations’ Economic Relations

Leaders of major United States companies with deep ties to China will meet on Tuesday with their Chinese counterparts to try to ease the increasingly rocky economic relationship between the countries.

On Tuesday, Wilbur L. Ross, the secretary of commerce, will host a daylong meeting in Washington with more than 20 business leaders from the United States and China. The session will be brokered by Jack Ma, the executive chairman of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, and Stephen A. Schwarzman, a co-founder of the private-equity firm the Blackstone Group and an adviser to President Trump.

The goal is a frank discussion of the issues that trouble economic relations between the countries. Topics are expected to include the customs hurdles facing Chinese companies that sell goods to the United States and the exportation of American natural gas products to China. Participants are to produce a list of suggestions for officials of the two governments to consider.

The meeting will be held a day before a separately scheduled economic policy discussion between the United States and Chinese governments on Wednesday. Tuesday’s meeting is largely a private-sector event, and United States and Chinese officials have no obligation to act on its conclusions, the organizers said.

A Commerce Department spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

The American participants are expected to include a dozen chief executives, among them Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Jim Umpleby of Caterpillar, Doug McMillon of Wal-Mart Stores, Mary T. Barra of General Motors, and Ryan Lance of ConocoPhillips. The Chinese executives are expected to include Tian Guoli, chairman of the Bank of China, and Ning Gaoning, also known as Frank Ning, chairman of the state-owned oil company Sinochem.

Tuesday’s meeting is occurring at a sensitive time for the Trump administration and the business community. American business leaders and policy makers have long been frustrated by China’s stance on a host of issues, including widespread Chinese theft of intellectual property, the United States’ huge trade deficit with China, and the heavy government subsidies enjoyed by many Chinese companies. Aware of the resentment, Mr. Trump and Mr. Ross have moved to rewrite American regulations involving the two countries. Among other things, they are considering tariffs on imported metals while promising to revise unfavorable trade deals.

At the same time, the Trump administration has sought to compromise with the Chinese government in hopes of spurring trade and helping American companies. At a meeting in April at the president’s Florida residence, Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to a 100-day plan meant to improve access to Chinese markets for American financial firms and beef exporters.

In a telephone interview late Monday, Mr. Schwarzman said the gathering was organized at the behest of Mr. Ma of Alibaba.

“He thought it would be a really excellent idea if we got the two business communities together in a small group, where we can have open and honest discussions about the friction that happens in the trade area on a practical basis,” Mr. Schwarzman said. “The objective is to share observations of the different companies and have more general discussion on what each of these companies thinks needs to change.”

A spokesman for Mr. Ma did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Schwarzman, who convened the president’s strategic and policy forum late last year to provide Mr. Trump with economic advice from American business leaders, has become an important outside adviser to the administration. In addition to commenting on matters of trade, tax policy and job creation, he has shared his views with Mr. Trump on issues far afield from his Wall Street role, including immigration. Blackstone would benefit from some of the Trump administration’s policy priorities, including a promised push to spend more on infrastructure, the focus of a large new investment fund Mr. Schwarzman started recently.

Given the ill will between many American businesses and the Chinese, some people doubted that the meeting on Tuesday would lead to meaningful progress.

“The consensus American view is, China has a lot of bad trade practices that we need to fix,” said Derek Scissors, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute who focuses on Asia. Given that Blackstone and Alibaba have strong business interests in China, Mr. Scissors added, “You’re not going to get that out of a Schwarzman-Ma meeting.”

Still, the talk is occurring when executives in the United States are increasingly unhappy over the lack of progress by the administration and Congress on domestic issues like infrastructure and taxes.

In an earnings call with analysts on Friday, Mr. Dimon of JPMorgan complained colorfully about the impasse in Washington, saying it was dampening economic growth.