WASHINGTON: The United States and China said they made progress in talks aimed at defusing a nearly 16-month-long trade war that has harmed the global economy, and US officials said a deal could be signed this month.
The Chinese Commerce Ministry said late Friday the world’s two largest economies had reached “consensus on principles” during a “serious and constructive” telephone call between their main trade negotiators.
US President Donald Trump said he hoped to sign an agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping at a US location, perhaps in the farming state of Iowa, which will be a key battleground state in the 2020 presidential election.
“China wants to make the deal very much,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday evening. “I don’t like to talk about deals until they happen, but we’re making a lot of progress.”
US and Chinese negotiators have been racing to finalize a text of a ‘phase one’ agreement for Trump and Xi to sign this month, a process clouded by wrangling over US demands for a timetable of Chinese purchases of US farm products.
A critical date is Dec 15, when new US tariffs on Chinese imports such as laptops, toys and electronics are set to kick in. Both the United States and China have an interest in reaching a deal and averting those tariffs.
US and Chinese negotiators had made “enormous progress” toward finalizing the phase one agreement, although the deal was not yet 100pc complete, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin moved forward on a range of issues during their call with China’s Vice Premier Liu He, and were working to resolve outstanding issues, USTR said in a statement.
The talks are set to continue at the deputy level.
“The deal is not completed, but we made enormous progress. We’re beyond where we were last spring, so I’m going to play that from the optimistic side,” Kudlow told reporters.
US officials have said the two sides were close to an agreement in May, but talks faltered when China backtracked on commitments to change its laws to resolve core US complaints about theft of intellectual property, forced technology transfers and other practices.