WASHINGTON/BEIJING • China hopes to reach a phased agreement in a protracted trade dispute with the US and cancel tariffs as soon as possible, the Commerce Ministry said yesterday, adding that trade wars had no winners.
A phased agreement would help restore market confidence and reduce uncertainty, said ministry spokesman Gao Feng, adding that both sides were maintaining close communication.
"The final goal of both sides' negotiations is to end the trade war and cancel all additional tariffs," he said. "This would benefit China, the United States and the whole world. We hope that both sides will continue to work together, advance negotiations, and reach a phased agreement as soon as possible."
US President Donald Trump last week outlined the first phase of a deal and suspended a threatened tariff hike, but officials on both sides said more work needed to be done. Mr Trump had planned to proceed with a hike in tariffs to 30 per cent from 25 per cent on about US$250 billion (S$342 billion) worth of Chinese goods last week.
The US administration has yet to decide on how to address an additional planned 10 per cent tariffs on roughly US$156 billion worth of Chinese goods due to take effect on Dec 15.
US and Chinese negotiators are working on nailing down a Phase 1 trade deal text for their presidents to sign next month, said US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Wednesday, adding that he was prepared to travel to Beijing for more meetings if necessary.
Mr Mnuchin, in a news conference, said there was no invitation from Beijing for another high-level meeting with Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He on the trade deal outlined last week, but deputies were talking by phone this week. "As of now, there's no invitation and there's no plan" for a high-level meeting. "That doesn't mean we won't go," he said.
Mr Mnuchin said he and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer would speak with Mr Liu next week by phone and the three were likely to meet in Santiago, Chile, ahead of an expected meeting between Mr Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at a Nov 16-17 summit of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation countries.
Mr Mnuchin said the Trump administration's "objective" was for the agreement to be signed at the summit. Mr Trump had said on Wednesday that he likely would not sign any trade deal with China until he meets Mr Xi in Chile.
Mr Trump told reporters at the White House that the partial trade deal announced last week was in the process of being formalised.
Mr Gao said working-level representatives from the US and China were working on the specifics of an agreement.
"Since this year, under the effect of China-US trade frictions, trade and investment between the US and China have fallen. This fully demonstrates that trade wars have no winners."