Trump Says China Trade Talks `Very Productive’ as Team Returns

Date: Tuesday, February 19, 2019
Source: Sourcing Journal

President Donald Trump said last week’s China trade talks were “very productive” as his team briefed him upon their return and readied for another round of negotiations.

Saturday’s meeting came as U.S. and China sent signals they may reach a deal or extend talks to end their trade war, easing fears the Trump administration will ratchet up tariffs when a key deadline arrives in two weeks. Investors on Friday cheered signs that the trade war between the world’s two largest economies isn’t escalating, with U.S. equities climbing.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders named 10 officials who were supposed to have participated in Saturday’s meeting, either in person in Florida, where the president is spending the weekend, or by phone.

The attendees included U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, along with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, White House economic director Larry Kudlow, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and others.

Trump followed up Saturday’s Twitter message about “very productive” talks with another on Sunday morning, citing “important meetings and calls on China trade deal, and more, today with my staff. Big progress being made on soooo many different fronts!”

On Friday, the president hailed the efforts made in made in negotiations earlier in the week in Beijing attended by Mnuchin and Lighthizer. The two countries said they’re working toward a preliminary written agreement, and will continue discussions in Washington next week. The U.S. has threatened to more than double tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods if there’s no deal by March 1.

“It’s going extremely well,” Trump said on Friday. “If we can make the deal it would be my honor to remove” the tariffs, but otherwise many billions of dollars are pouring into Treasury, the president said at the White House.

President Xi Jinping also sounded upbeat, saying the latest round of meetings “achieved important progress in another step,” according to China’s Xinhua News Agency.

Trump said in a separate tweet he will hold “important meetings” with his staff on Sunday about a China trade deal, saying there has been “big progress.” It’s unclear whether the latest tweet is referencing additional meetings.

Trump also said Friday said he’d consider bringing Democrats to the negotiating table. His remark suggested he may be preparing a campaign to sell a potential trade deal with China in Washington. Some Democrats have pressed Trump to stick to a tougher approach to Beijing.

Schumer, Pelosi

“Any deal I make toward the end I’m going to bring Schumer — at least offer him — and Pelosi. I’m going to say please join me on the deal,” said Trump referring to Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “I’ll put them in the room and let them speak up.”

The Trump-Xi Trade Truce Ends March 1. What Then?: QuickTake

Trump’s optimistic comments contrast with the measured tone of the official U.S. statement on the talks released by the White House. In the statement, the U.S. cautioned that “much work remains,” making no mention of the “consensus in principle” cited by the Chinese in their own statement.

Both sides agreed to resume discussions in the U.S. capital next week as they work toward a “memorandum of understanding” that could form the basis of a deal between Trump and Xi. A summit meeting between the leaders hasn’t yet been scheduled.

U.S. business groups welcomed the signs of progress but urged the two sides to close the gaps. “A final, comprehensive deal is only possible if progress is made to address a range of structural reforms — including concerns over forced technology transfers — and tangible improvements in market access are clear, concrete, and enforceable,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce head of international affairs Myron Brilliant said in a statement.

Detailed and Enforceable

Any agreement should be “detailed, enforceable, time-bound, and result in market-access improvements that have a meaningful impact” on American companies, workers and farmers, said Craig Allen, president of the U.S.-China Business Council.

Trump repeated on Friday that he’s open to extending the March 1 deadline for higher tariffs if the two sides are close to striking a deal. Trump is considering a 60-day extension for negotiations, people familiar with the matter said earlier this week.

The White House statement on Friday said the Americans focused on structural issues in the Chinese economy “including forced technology transfer, intellectual property rights, cyber theft, agriculture, services, non-tariff barriers, and currency.”

Mnuchin sounded a positive note in Beijing while in Beijing, saying he and Lighthizer held productive meetings with China’s Vice Premier Liu He. Xi also met the two Americans on Friday.


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