Bloomberg reported that White House trade adviser Peter Navarro was sidelined from the talks in part because of recent behavior that anonymous administration officials describe as "erratic and unprofessional".
The White House did not list Navarro, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow or Everett Eissenstat, the NEC's deputy director for global economics, on the list of principal participants for the talks.
Two top trade advisers to President Donald Trump had an expletive packed-shouting match during their trip to Beijing earlier this month, three people familiar with the exchange said, part of an ongoing turf war that's dividing the team negotiating new trade arrangements with China. The White House official said Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, will attend as well.
The escalation in Navarro and Mnuchin's feud comes amid continued disagreements inside the administration over the future of its economic and trade policies.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Navarro has expressed hawkish views on Chinese trade policies in the past, even writing a book titled "Death by China".
Despite Navarro's struggles internally, he has found himself with a bigger seat at the table since earlier this year, when he was promoted to the position of assistant to the President, coming at a time when Trump has dug back into his nationalist trade instincts.
The talks will start as USTR finishes up public hearings on the first batch of U.S. tariffs on US$50 billion worth of Chinese goods proposed as punishment for alleged violations of United States intellectual rights.
But there have been signs China is seeking to add a number of unrelated measures to the trade talks, and Trump has shown a willingness to entertain them.
Trump said earlier today there has been "no folding" in his negotiations as he addresses his efforts to help a Chinese telecommunications company that violated US sanctions. White House officials knew that China wanted restrictions to be loosened, but the fate of this company had not been part of the White House's original negotiating platform.
This behind-the-scenes horse trading has occurred without input from Navarro or a number of other White House officials, as several appeared caught off-guard during public appearances this week.
His shift away from a lead role in the talks now comes amid a growing rift over trade policy with Mnuchin, who has favored more achievable deals to open China's economy to USA firms and ease tariff threats, Reuters noted. Navarro will, in fact, be participating in the talks, according to the administration official who was contacted after the Bloomberg report was published.