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.