Before the US presidential election in November, there will be little progress in the first phase of the trade agreement, former US ambassador to China Max Baucus said on Tuesday.
President Donald Trump signed the partial trade agreement with Beijing in January, but the coronavirus pandemic has hit China's economy since then. There are now doubts as to whether the Asian giant will be able to meet its large-scale purchase commitments.
These "opportunities are diminishing," said Baucus, who served as ambassador to China from February 2014 to January 2017 under the government of former President Barack Obama.
According to a forecast by the Think Tanks Center for Strategic and International Studies, the pandemic will likely result in China's US goods purchases falling far short of what was agreed in the first trade agreement this year.
With Trump busy securing a second term and China struggling to reach the end of the deal, there will be little constructive development until after the election, Baucus told CNBC's Squawk Box.
"There will be a lot of rhetoric back and forth, but I don't know that there will be many substantive and meaningful agreements for change," he said.
The former ambassador described US-China relations as a "great abyss", adding that further talks between the two sides are needed.
Tensions remain, even if Biden wins the election
Regarding the upcoming presidential election, Baucus said US relations with China could improve if former Vice President Joe Biden won the election, but tensions remain.
"It probably won't get any worse, maybe it will bottom out here," said Baucus of a Biden win.
It could also get better since Biden is "much more predictable" and is likely to use regular diplomatic channels and practice quiet diplomacy, he said.
"He knows that you don't have to be criticized for doing business with countries. You can't force them to publicly dig in your heels, you have to negotiate," he said.
But there will continue to be signs of tensions between the US and China, with the Asian country now an emerging power, he said.
"This does not mean that there will be no significant tensions between the United States and China. Tensions will continue to exist even under a Biden presidency," said Baucus.