US, China say deal to end trade dispute likely

The latest round of US-Chinese trade talks was originally scheduled to wrap up last Friday, but went so well that the Chinese negotiators extended their stay and will continue meeting their US counterparts through the weekend.
The latest round of US-Chinese trade talks was originally scheduled to wrap up last Friday, but went so well that the Chinese negotiators extended their stay and will continue meeting their US counterparts through the weekend.PHOTO: REUTERS

Beijing team's extended Washington stay seen as good sign; Trump 'may meet Xi next month'

Signs are pointing to an agreement between the United States and China on resolving their current trade dispute. The Chinese trade delegation has decided to extend its stay in Washington where the current round of trade talks are being held, a move Chinese experts said clearly indicated significant progress in the talks.

US President Donald Trump has also said that he may meet his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping next month to finalise a trade deal that is "more likely" to happen than not.

The latest round of US-Chinese trade talks was originally scheduled to wrap up last Friday, but went so well that the Chinese negotiators extended their stay and will continue meeting their US counterparts through the weekend.

"I would say it's more likely that a deal will happen," Mr Trump told reporters at the Oval Office before his meeting with the Chinese trade delegation, led by Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He. "The fact that they're willing to stay for a quite-a-bit-longer period, doubling the time, that means something."

Mr Trump also said he remained open to extending the March 1 deadline for negotiators to reach an agreement, failing which US tariffs on US$200 billion (S$270 billion) of Chinese goods will be raised from 10 to 25 per cent, if he saw substantial progress being made.

He added that his meeting with Mr Xi would probably take place at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, where both met in April 2017.

The US and China have also sealed a deal on currency manipulation, said Mr Trump, who declined to give further details.

 
 
 

Mr Liu was also quoted as saying that a deal was "very likely", adding that there was positive progress on the issues of trade balance, agriculture, technology transfer, intellectual property protection and financial services. The news on Friday suggested that low-hanging fruit such as reducing the US-China trade deficit had been plucked, and the remaining challenges were much harder.

"It sounds like the easy wins have been made," wrote China commentator Bill Bishop in Axios news website. "The Chinese have resisted significant concessions and it's not clear what leverage the US President wants to use before March 1 to convince them to move much more."

Said Mr Trump: "Ultimately, I think the biggest decisions and some even smaller decisions will be made by President Xi and myself. And we expect to have a meeting some point in the not too distant future and I can only say talks are going along well, but we're going to have to see what happens."

The US and China are negotiating to resolve a trade dispute centred on China's alleged unfair trade practices, including forced technology transfers and market access, and the US' trade deficit with China.

Mr Xi, in a message read out at the Oval Office on Friday, said he was pleased to note the economic teams had engaged in intense talks and made significant progress since he and Mr Trump met in Argentina last November after the G-20 summit.

"This has been well received in both our countries and in the wider international community. It is my hope that our two sides will continue to work together in a spirit of mutual respect and... cooperation and could redouble our efforts so as to meet each other halfway and reach an agreement that works for our mutual benefit," said the Chinese President in the message.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 24, 2019, with the headline 'US, China say deal to end trade dispute likely'. Print Edition | Subscribe