Trump says trade talks with China could reach an agreement in four weeks

US President Donald Trump says a trade deal with China was getting close and a deal could be reached in about four weeks, in a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He.
China's Vice-Premier Liu He (left) with US President Donald Trump at the White House.
China's Vice-Premier Liu He (left) with US President Donald Trump at the White House.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON - The United States and China are nearing an agreement to end their trade war and could reach one in four weeks, said President Donald Trump on Thursday(April 4), as Chinese President Xi Jinping urged a quick end to negotiations.

“We are rounding the turn,” said Mr Trump at a meeting with Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He, who is in Washington DC this week for the latest round of trade talks. “We have a ways to go, but not very far.”

The Chinese president  urged a quick end to the trade talks, in a message conveyed by Mr Liu.

“Under the current situation, the healthy and stable development of China-US relations is related to the interests of both Chinese and American people,” said Mr Liu on behalf of Mr Xi, according to state news agency Xinhua.

While Mr Trump stopped short of announcing a time and place for an anticipated deal-signing summit between himself and Mr Xi, he said one could be announced in four weeks and the paperwork drawn up within two weeks after that.

He added that some of the toughest points of negotiation had been settled and called the trade deal in the works “the granddaddy of them all”, in contrast to more cautious remarks from top US trade officials.

Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said: “There are still some major, major issues left, but we’re certainly making more progress than we would’ve thought when we started.”

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro added: “The last mile of a marathon is actually the longest and the hardest. So we hope for the best, but we’ll see what happens.”

 

Mr Liu, who is in Washington DC this week for the latest round of trade talks, said “great progress” had been made on the talks due to Mr Trump’s direct involvement. 

The US president said tariffs are still being discussed, but did not go into detail. The Wall Street Journal, however, reported earlier in the week that tariffs had emerged as a key sticking point, as Washington wants to keep its punitive tariffs on US$250 billion (S$338 billion) of Chinese goods in place until it sees signs of true reform, while Beijing wants them lifted immediately. 

The US also wants to be able to re-impose tariffs if China reneges on its promises, but Beijing views this as infringing on its sovereignty.

Another sticking point is China’s lengthy approval process for new strains of American genetically modified crops, which throttles the sales of these products and restricts what American farmers can plant to sell, reported Reuters.

The trade war has threatened global growth, but at stake is also the future of the economic relationship between the world’s two largest economies. Washington is seeking an end to rules and practices that disadvantage American companies in China, such as forced technology transfers and intellectual property theft. 

It also accuses China of not playing by the rules of global trade in supporting state-owned enterprises and subsidising companies in key sectors.

Still, Mr Trump praised the strength of the US-China relationship on Thursday, saying: “We have agreed to far more than we have left to agree to.”

The broad outline of the trade agreement - currently spanning more than 120 pages - emerged this week in media reports citing official sources.

The Chinese will have until 2025 to carry out their promised purchases of soybeans and other American products, and American companies will also be allowed to wholly own enterprises in China, reported Bloomberg. 

Mr Trump had been poised to announce a summit date on Thursday, but media reports on  this had provoked a backlash among his advisers, who were worried that locking in a date would tie their hands in negotiations, according to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.