US President Donald Trump said he will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping soon to try to seal a comprehensive trade deal as Trump and his top trade negotiator both cited substantial progress in two days of high-level talks, Reuters reports.
Trump, speaking at the White House during a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He on Thursday, said he was optimistic that the world’s two largest economies could reach “the biggest deal ever made”.
No specific plans for a meeting with Xi were announced, but Trump said there could be more than one meeting.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were invited to bring a US negotiating team to Beijing around mid-February, with dates still pending.
At the end of two days of high-level talks next door to the White House, Liu told Trump that China would make a new, immediate commitment to increase soybean purchases.
An administration official later said the commitment was for 5 million tons, effectively doubling the amount bought by China since resuming limited purchases in December.
While China has offered increased purchases of US farm, energy and other goods to try to resolve the trade disputes, negotiators dug into thornier issues, including US demands that China take steps to protect American intellectual property and end policies that Washington says force US companies to turn over technology to Chinese firms.
Lighthizer said there was “substantial progress” on these issues, including verification mechanisms to “enforce” China’s follow-through on any reform commitments it makes.
“At this point, it’s impossible for me to predict success. But we’re in a place that if things work out, it could happen,” Lighthizer said at the Oval Office meeting.
Later, he told reporters that the US objective was to make China’s commitments “more specific, all-encompassing and enforceable” with a mechanism for taking action if China fails to follow through, but declined to provide specific issues.
Asked whether the two sides discussed lifting US tariffs on Chinese goods, Lighthizer said tariffs were not part of the talks.
A person familiar with the discussions said a broad range of concerns about access to Chinese agricultural markets were raised in the talks but little progress was made.
The White House said in a statement that a scheduled March 2 tariff increase on US$200 billion of Chinese goods to 25 percent from 10 percent was a “hard deadline” if no deal was reached by March 1.
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