WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump said there has been progress towards a trade deal with China, but denied that he was considering lifting tariffs on Chinese imports.
"Things are going very well with China and with trade," he told reporters at the White House last Saturday, adding that he had seen some "false reports" indicating that US tariffs on Chinese products would be lifted.
"If we make a deal, certainly we would not have sanctions and if we don't make a deal, we will," he said. "We've had a very extraordinary number of meetings and a deal could very well happen with China."
Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He will visit the US on Jan 30 and 31 for the next round of trade negotiations with Washington. That follows lower-level negotiations held in Beijing last week to resolve the bitter dispute between the world's two largest economies by March 2, when the US is scheduled to increase tariffs on US$200 billion (S$270 billion) worth of Chinese goods.
According to sources briefed on the ongoing negotiations, the US is pushing for regular reviews of China's progress on pledged trade reforms as a condition for a trade deal and could again resort to tariffs if it deems Beijing has violated the agreement. "The threat of tariffs is not going away, even if there is a deal," said one of the sources.
Chinese negotiators were not keen on the idea of regular compliance checks, the source said, but the US proposal "didn't derail negotiations".
A Chinese source said the United States wants "periodic assessments" but it was not yet clear how often.
"It looks like humiliation," the source said. "But perhaps the two sides could find a way to save face for the Chinese government."
The Trump administration has imposed import tariffs on Chinese goods to put pressure on Beijing to meet a long list of demands that would rewrite the terms of trade between the two countries.
The demands include changes to China's policies on intellectual property protection, technology transfers, industrial subsidies and other trade barriers.