Trump advisor Kudlow sees no let-up in China talks

Intense discussions will continue as both the US and China tout progress at the negotiating table

WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump’s top economic advisor said the US and China will continue intense discussions to reach a trade deal as both sides tout progress at the negotiating table.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and US officials resumed talks last Friday in Washington, said White House National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow.

This week, negotiators will “be in touch” by phone, Kudlow said in an interview on Bloomberg TV. “There is no let-up,” he added.

Speaking to reporters last Friday before leaving on a trip to California, Trump hailed the latest round of discussions in Washington as a “big success”, but said he didn’t want to predict whether a deal would be reached.

The president said before meeting Liu last Thursday in the Oval Office that the US and China were close to a trade agreement, with an announcement possible in the next four to six weeks.

The White House released a statement last Friday evening saying while progress had been made, “significant work remains, and the principals, deputy ministers and delegation members will be in continuous contact to resolve outstanding issues”.

President Xi Jinping has called for an early conclusion to negotiations, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Liu said the two sides had “reached new consensus on such important issues as the text” of a trade agreement, according to Xinhua.

Liu met with the president after two days of talks between Chinese and American trade negotiators in Washington. Trump didn’t announce a summit with Xi — a meeting Trump has said is critical to finalising an agreement.

A month ago, Trump was touting the idea of a “signing summit” with Xi, with aides suggesting the meeting could take place at Trump’s Mar-aLago resort in Florida.

“If we have a deal, then we’ll have a summit,” Trump said last Thursday.

The nine-month trade war has disrupted supply chains, whipsawed markets and weighed on the world economy. International Monetary Fund MD Christine Lagarde last week warned both sides to avoid the “self-inflicted” wound of a protracted trade conflict.

“Trump is pressing China at the last stage of the talks, requiring it to offer greater concessions on market opening and strengthen the supervision over the implementation of promises,” said Li Yishuang, a Shanghai-based economist at China Securities Finance Co who specialises in international trade.

“But these issues are all at the implementation level. A deal in principle is still likely to be reached by the end of April.”

Trump said the remaining sticking points are intellectual-property protection, tariffs and enforcement of the deal.

He said he would discuss tariffs with Liu in their meeting, but didn’t elaborate. “We’ve agreed to far more than we have left to agree to,” he said.

Xinhua said in a separate commentary last Friday “the remaining issues are all hard nuts to crack”.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said last Thursday there were still major issues to resolve in the agreement.

Peter Navarro, a White House trade advisor, said “the last mile of the marathon is actually the longest and the hardest”.

The limited scope and time frame of the deal raises questions about whether it would reshape the longer-term economic relationship, rather than simply serve as a political win for Trump ahead of his re-election campaign. — Bloomberg