US officials 'preparing final China trade deal'

WASHINGTON • United States officials are preparing a final trade deal that President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping could sign in weeks, sources said, even as a debate continues in Washington over whether to push Beijing for more concessions.

The US is eyeing a summit between both presidents as soon as mid-March, said one source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The planning has been complicated by Mr Xi's duty to lead China's annual National People's Congress early this month, as well as make other foreign trips.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday said the two nations are working on a 150-page document that would turn into a "very detailed agreement", though he cautioned that "we still have more work to do".

At a summit in Vietnam this week with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Mr Trump showed he is willing to walk away if he does not like the terms on the table, including with China.

The North Korea talks broke down after Mr Trump refused to lift sanctions on the country.

"Speaking of China, we're very well on our way to doing something special. But we'll see," Mr Trump said at a press conference in Hanoi.

"I am always prepared to walk. I'm never afraid to walk from a deal, and I would do that with China, too, if it didn't work out."

US' negotiations with Beijing for structural economic reforms are separate from talks about the quantity of American products that China may agree to buy in order to reduce the US trade deficit, another source said.

China has offered to ramp up purchases of American goods by US$1.2 trillion (S$1.6 trillion) over six years, according to the same source.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2019, with the headline 'US officials 'preparing final China trade deal''. Print Edition | Subscribe