'Big' China deal possible soon: Trump

VIDEO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump predicts a major US-China trade deal in the near future, saying that Beijing's negotiating position had been weakened by the impact of the tariff war between the world's top two economies.

"China wants to make a big and very comprehensive deal. It could happen, and rather soon!" Mr Trump tweeted.

His optimism followed China's decision last Friday to back off from extra punitive duties that had been imposed this summer on US-made cars and auto parts.

The move was seen as the first concrete result of the US leader's Group of 20 talks with his counterpart, Mr Xi Jinping, earlier this month.

Those tariffs now fall from 40 per cent to 15 per cent - the same rate imposed on all foreign-made vehicles. The relief will last for three months from Jan 1.

"Suspension of the tariffs is a concrete measure to implement the consensus reached by the two heads of state," said the announcement by the State Council's Tariff Commission Office, noting it applied to 211 product codes.

Mr Trump said the climbdown showed that China had been forced to blink in their on-off spat, after months of heavy US tariffs on Chinese imports.

"China just announced that their economy is growing much slower than anticipated because of our Trade War with them. They have just suspended US Tariff Hikes. US is doing very well," Mr Trump said.

Beijing's move also demonstrated that talks to resolve the trade conflict have survived the tension sparked by Canada's arrest of a top Chinese telecoms executive at the behest of US law enforcement.

Mr Trump and Mr Xi agreed on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires on Dec 1 to a 90-day truce while they tried to find a solution to the escalating trade dispute.

Confusion and unease over what agreement the two sides reached in Argentina have roiled stock markets.

But trade negotiators talked on the phone last week to discuss a timetable for talks.

Last Friday's announcement in Beijing also confirms what Mr Trump said on Dec 2 about China acting on the car tariffs.

US exports to China fell 25 per cent year on year last month as the higher tariffs on hundreds of American goods hurt demand.

In another signal that China may move to satisfy Mr Trump, the country's top legislature announced last Friday that it would hold a session from Dec 23 to Dec 29 to discuss legislation on foreign investment and draft revisions to the patent law.

The US has long complained of a lack of fair access for foreign companies in China and rampant theft of intellectual property.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 16, 2018, with the headline ''Big' China deal possible soon: Trump'. Print Edition | Subscribe