Trump says China trade talks going well, predicts ‘good deal’ or no deal

McKinney (centre left) leaves a Beijing hotel with members of a negotiation team on the way to trade talks, Feb 14, 2019.
McKinney (centre left) leaves a Beijing hotel with members of a negotiation team on the way to trade talks, Feb 14, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday (March 6) that trade talks with China were moving along well and predicted either a “good deal” or no deal between the world’s two largest economies.  

“They’re moving along well and we’ll see what happens,” the president said during a meeting in the Oval Office, referring to the trade talks. 

He said there would either be “a good deal or it’s not going to be a deal, but I think they’re moving along very nicely.” 

Washington and Beijing have been locked in intense negotiations to end a months-long trade war. 

Mr Trump, citing progress in talks, last week delayed a planned tariff increase to 25 percent from 10 per cent on US$200 billion (S$270 billion) of Chinese goods.  

Trump’s comments after the Commerce Department said on Wednesday that the US goods trade deficit surged to a record high in 2018 as strong domestic demand fueled by lower taxes pulled in imports, despite the president’s tariffs and “America First” policies aimed at shrinking the trade gap.  

Talks are primarily taking place via video teleconference and going well, Ted McKinney, undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, told a press call.

"Presently, there's a lot of discussions going on by digital video conference, also a very good and productive thing," he said. "Right now, I think there's just a lot of work in getting words down... a contract or agreement, and that's the current status." 

The US has demanded that China make substantial changes to its laws and practices to protect US intellectual property, end forced transfers of US technology to Chinese firms, curb generous industrial subsidies and open the domestic market to US companies.

In addition, Washington has sought increased Chinese purchases of US goods, including farm and energy commodities and manufactured products, to reduce a US trade deficit with China that it estimates at more than US$417 billion for 2018.

People familiar with the talks told Reuters the two sides still had substantial work ahead to reach agreement on a way to ensure China follows through on any pledges.

Talks could still collapse if a deal cannot be reached on enforcement of these "structural" issues.

Mr McKinney said he did not know of any firm plans for a US delegation to go back to China for further negotiations but added that such a trip would not come as a surprise.