US, China plan more rounds of high-level trade talks, source says

Officials from both sides plan to meet in Beijing to discuss a deal that US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping could sign in May 2019.
Officials from both sides plan to meet in Beijing to discuss a deal that US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping could sign in May 2019.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - Senior United States and Chinese officials are scheduling more face-to-face trade talks in an effort to reach a deal by early May that President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping could sign later that month, two people familiar with the plans said.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin plan to travel to Beijing in the week of April 29, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The next week, Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He will come to Washington for negotiations. During his visit, officials want to announce that the sides have struck a deal and unveil details of a signing summit, probably set for late May, they said.

A spokesman for Mr Lighthizer declined to comment on the trip.

On April 4, Mr Trump said it might take four weeks to put together a framework for the deal and two weeks more to get the details on paper. Mr Trump, speaking at an event at the White House on Wednesday (April 17), said he thinks the negotiations will be "successful" and that an update would be announced shortly.

The world's two biggest economies are locked in negotiations to end the nine-month trade war that has roiled markets and threatened global growth. Mr Mnuchin said last Saturday that the two sides are nearing the final rounds of negotiations.

US and Chinese officials have been in regular contact via digital teleconference since Mr Liu last led a delegation to Washington in early April. The two sides are still haggling over an enforcement mechanism and what duties will stay in place or be removed.

In an indication the Trump administration is making concessions needed to reach a deal, Mr Mnuchin said that the pact will have "real enforcement on both sides". That would mean the US - not just China - could be hit with penalties if it fails to live up to its commitments.

 
 

Bloomberg News reported on Monday that China is considering a US request to shift some of its retaliatory tariffs from key agricultural products to other American exports. The Trump administration made the demand with the goal to sell this deal as a win for US farmers, people briefed on the negotiations said.

One option under consideration is to hold the leaders' signing summit in Japan, where Mr Trump is due to travel in May to meet the country's new emperor, Crown Prince Naruhito, according to one of the people. The president will return in June for the Group of 20 summit.

The Wall Street Journal reported the plans for more US-China meetings earlier on Wednesday.