US-China pact faces more Trump stalling

US President Donald Trump leaves 10 Downing Street during the Nato Summit in London, on Dec 3, 2019.
US President Donald Trump leaves 10 Downing Street during the Nato Summit in London, on Dec 3, 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON • US President Donald Trump yesterday said a trade agreement with China might have to wait until after the US presidential election in November next year, denting hopes of a quick resolution to a dispute that has weighed on the world economy.

"I have no deadline, no. In some ways, I think it's better to wait until after the election with China," Mr Trump told reporters in London, where he was due to attend a meeting of Nato leaders.

"In some ways, I like the idea of waiting until after the election for the China deal. But they want to make a deal now, and we'll see whether or not the deal's going to be right; it's got to be right."

Washington and Beijing have yet to ink a so-called "phase one" pact announced in October, which had raised hopes of a de-escalation in the trade dispute.

On Monday, before travelling to London, Mr Trump said US legislation backing protesters in Hong Kong is not making trade negotiations with China easier, but he believes Beijing still wants a deal with the US.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has said that Dec 15 - when a further 15 per cent US tariff on about US$156 billion (S$213 billion) worth of Chinese imports is set to take effect, is a natural deadline for an agreement.

Chinese state media yesterday said Beijing will soon publish a list of "unreliable entities" that could lead to sanctions against US firms, signalling that trade talks between the two nations are increasingly under threat from disputes over democracy in Hong Kong and human rights in the Xinjiang region.

The Communist Party-backed Global Times said in a tweet that the list is being sped up in response to a Bill sponsored by Republican Senator Marco Rubio requiring measures against Chinese officials involved in alleged abuses of Uighur Muslims in western China's Xinjiang region. Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin went further on Twitter, saying US officials may face visa restrictions and US passport holders could be banned from entering Xinjiang.

China has not said which firms would be on the blacklist, though FedEx has been under scrutiny this year.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2019, with the headline 'US-China pact faces more Trump stalling'. Print Edition | Subscribe