China wants more talks before signing Trump's 'phase one' deal

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Monday that an additional round of tariffs on Chinese imports will likely be imposed if a trade deal with China has not been reached by December 15, but added that he expected the agreement to go through.
A photo taken on Oct 11 shows US President Donald Trump with Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.
A photo taken on Oct 11 shows US President Donald Trump with Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.PHOTO: NYTIMES

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - China wants further talks as soon as the end of October to hammer out the details of the "phase one" trade deal touted by US President Donald Trump before Chinese President Xi Jinping agrees to sign it, according to people familiar with the matter.

Beijing may send a delegation led by Vice-Premier Liu He, China's top negotiator, to finalise a written deal that could be signed by the two presidents at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit next month in Chile, one source said.

Another said China wants Mr Trump to also scrap a planned tariff hike in December in addition to the hike scheduled for this week, something the administration has not yet endorsed. The people asked not to be named discussing the private negotiations.

The details of the verbal agreement reached in Washington last week between the two nations remain unclear.

While Mr Trump hailed an increase in agricultural purchases as "the greatest and biggest deal ever made for our Great Patriot Farmers in the history of our Country," China's state-run media only said the two sides "agreed to make joint efforts toward eventually reaching an agreement".

China's Ministry of Commerce did not immediately respond to a request for comment on further talks.

Mr Geng Shuang, a foreign ministry spokesman, reiterated on Monday (Oct 14) that both sides had made progress, and said he hoped "the US will work with China and meet each other halfway".

Investors have struggled to determine whether the US and China reached a breakthrough in an 18-month trade war, with global stocks mixed on Monday.

Worse-than-expected September trade figures in China underscored the growing pressure on both Mr Trump and Mr Xi to reach a deal to avert a wider slowdown in the global economy.

China has become increasingly wary of any statements from Mr Trump.

 
 
 
 

Trust between the two sides suffered a big blow in May 2018, when Mr Trump put a stop to a deal for China to buy more energy and agricultural goods to narrow the trade deficit.

The US president further sowed distrust in August when he claimed that Chinese officials had called and requested to restart trade talks.

For Mr Xi, it is seen as politically unfeasible to accept a final deal that does not remove the punitive tariffs altogether.

Nationalists in the Communist Party have pressured him to avoid signing an "unequal treaty" reminiscent of those China signed with colonial powers.

"The US must concede on its December tariff threat if they want sign a deal during APEC summit, otherwise it would be a humiliating treaty for China," said Dr Huo Jianguo, a former Chinese commerce ministry official who is now vice chairman of the China Society For World Trade Organisation Studies.

"The US has definitely shown some good gestures but we shouldn't exclude the possibility of another flip-flop."