WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Donald Trump announced Tuesday (April 24) that top US trade officials would soon travel to China as Washington and Beijing seek to resolve a trade dispute that has roiled markets and left exporters on edge.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and other officials will make the trip at Beijing’s behest, the president told reporters.
“The Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, will be going to China in a few days to negotiate on trade,” he said. “I think China is very serious; we’re very serious.”
“So we’re going to have a delegation, at their request, go to China. They came here recently, and we’re going there. And that’ll be good.”
He said the two sides had a “very good chance” of reaching an agreement.
Trump has authorised tariffs on about US$50 billion (S$66 billion) in Chinese exports in response to China’s alleged theft of American intellectual property.
Beijing has responded by immediately slapping duties on key US agricultural exports, in measures intended to target the American president’s support base – and could do likewise for the sensitive US soybean industry.
Trump accuses China of driving up a yawning, US$337 billion trade deficit with the United States through unfair trade practices which he believes undermine the American industrial base and workforce.
But in remarks that helped calm markets, Xi recently vowed to open China, including its auto and financial sectors, to more foreign trade and investment.
And on Tuesday Trump described his relations with Chinese President Xi Jinping as “excellent.”
“I believe the trade will work out but I also think China has never treated us with more respect than they have over the last short period of time that I’m president,” Trump said.
Mnuchin told reporters over the weekend he was considering a trip, prompting Beijing to announce Sunday that China “welcomes” the move.
Senior Trump economic aide Peter Navarro, a trade hawk and fierce China critic, as well as National Economic Director Larry Kudlow, will travel with Mnuchin and Lighthizer for a trip which is likely to occur on May 3-4, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing an anonymous source.