WASHINGTON • The United States and China have largely agreed on a mechanism to police any trade agreement they reach, including establishing new enforcement offices, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said.
Mr Mnuchin, speaking on CNBC television on Wednesday, said that progress continues to be made in the talks, including a productive call with China's Vice-Premier Liu He on Tuesday night.
The discussions were set to resume early yesterday, Washington time.
"We've pretty much agreed on an enforcement mechanism, we've agreed that both sides will establish enforcement offices that will deal with the ongoing matters," Mr Mnuchin said, adding that there were still important issues for the countries to address.
Mr Mnuchin declined to comment on when or if US tariffs on US$250 billion (S$338 billion) worth of Chinese goods would be removed.
Although President Donald Trump said recently that a deal could be ready around the end of the month, Mr Mnuchin declined to put a timeframe on the negotiations, adding that Mr Trump was focused on getting the "right deal".
"As soon as we're ready and we have this done, he's ready and willing to meet with President Xi (Jinping) and it's important for the two leaders to meet and we're hopeful we can do this quickly, but we're not going to set an arbitrary deadline."
The US is demanding that China implement significant reforms to curb the theft of US intellectual property and end forced transfers of technology from American companies to Chinese firms.
Washington also wants Beijing to curb industrial subsidies, open its markets more widely to US firms and vastly increase purchases of American agricultural, energy and manufactured goods.
The Chinese commerce ministry yesterday confirmed that senior trade negotiators from both countries discussed the remaining issues in a phone call following the last round of talks in Washington.
"In the next step, both trade teams will keep in close communication, and work at full speed via all sorts of effective channels to proceed with negotiations," Mr Gao Feng, the ministry's spokesman told reporters in a regular briefing in Beijing.
Mr Mnuchin did not address whether the enforcement structure would allow the US a unilateral right to reimpose tariffs without retaliation if China fails to follow through on its commitments.
People familiar with the discussions have said that US negotiators are seeking that right, but that China is reluctant to agree to such a concession. Alternatively, the US may seek to keep tariffs in place,removing them only when China meets certain benchmarks in implementing its reforms.
Mr Mnuchin said he and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are focused on the execution of drafting the documents in the trade agreement.
The two sides are working on broad agreements covering six areas: forced technology transfer and cyber theft, intellectual property rights, services, currency, agriculture and non-tariff barriers to trade, according to two sources familiar with the progress of the talks.
"Some of the chapters are close to finished, some of the chapters still have technical issues," Mr Mnuchin said.