Caixin
Nov 16, 2019 10:20 PM

U.S.-China Trade Deal Could Be Signed by Ministers, White House Advisor Says

Photo: VCG
Photo: VCG

The “phase one” trade deal between China and the United States could be signed by ministers rather the presidents of the two countries, U.S. President Donald Trump’s top economic advisor said Friday.

Asked by reporters at the White House when the deal would be signed, Larry Kudlow, director of Trump’s National Economic Council said: “You know, the two leaders may be able to put together a signing ceremony. Both leaders have said from time to time their top ministers could do it.”

However, Kudlow declined to predict when the deal would be ready to be signed, saying that “I don’t want to hang numbers on days, dates, days of the week.”

Kudlow’s comments came a day ahead of what had been the scheduled start of the now-canceled leaders’ summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group in Chile, where Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping had been widely expected to meet to sign the phase one deal.

However, that chance evaporated on October 31 when Chilean President Sebastian Pinera canceled the meeting due to escalating domestic unrest in the Chilean capital of Santiago. Since then there has been increasing speculation when and where the initial deal might be signed after negotiations are concluded, with locations said to include London, Macau and American state of Iowa.

The two sides have not announced any backup plan for signing the deal, though doing so at the ministerial level could have appeal given the logistic challenges of scheduling a face-to-face meeting between the two presidents.

The outlook for completion of the deal remains unclear, with U.S. television network CNBC reporting on Wednesday that the U.S. was trying get greater concessions from China on increasing intellectual property protection and stopping forced technology transfers. The Wall Street Journal reported that China was resisting committing to buying a certain dollar amount of U.S. farm products as part of the deal. And on Thursday, the Chinese Commerce Ministry repeated that significant cuts in existing tariffs must be part of the agreement.

But there have also been positive signs, with Kudlow saying on Thursday that the deal was progressing and that negotiators where working on the “final strokes”.

And also on Thursday, the Chinese Agricultural Ministry said it would lift a five-year-long import ban on American poultry products, an important goodwill gesture in continuing efforts to de-escalate the 17-month tit-for-tat trade war.

Top Chinese and American negotiators -- Vice Premier and lead Chinese trade negotiator Liu He and his U.S. counterparts, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin – were scheduled to hold a phone call on Friday to continue the trade talks, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told the Fox Business Network. Ross added that a deal would be reached “in all likelihood.”

Contact reporter Lu Zhenhua (zhenhualu@caixin.com)


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