'So far, so good' - Mnuchin on trade talks in China

Galtero Lara
Febrero 14, 2019

Pressure to seal an accord ahead of a March 1 deadline set by Donald Trump appears to have eased slightly after the U.S. president indicated he was open to extending a trade truce depending on progress in Beijing.

The two economic superpowers have already imposed duties on more than US$360 billion in two-way trade, which has weighed on their manufacturing sectors and shaken global financial markets.

"Looking forward to discussions today", Mnuchin was quoted by Reuters as saying, without elaborating, as he left his hotel on Thursday morning. They believe China's goal is to make enough progress to persuade Trump to extend his deadline.

President Xi is expected to meet with the USA delegation in Beijing on Friday, .as they hope to shake hands on a deal as quickly as possible.

Hopes that the deadline to resolve the trade spat would be extended beyond March 1 sent markets higher this week.

Investment banker Mr Mnuchin said "so far, so good" when asked how the trade pact talks were going but refused to comment on who he had been meeting with. "They're showing us tremendous respect", he added.

Trump's advisers have described March 1 as a "hard deadline", but Trump told reporters a delay was now possible.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Stephen Censky said on Wednesday the two presidents were expected to meet "sometime in March", but no dates were set. "President Trump and President Xi sitting down face-to-face figuring that out and getting that final deal because they are the only two that'll ultimately be able to nail that down", Sanders said.

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Washington is demanding far-reaching changes to Chinese practices that it says are unfair, including theft of USA technology and intellectual property, and myriad barriers that foreign companies face in the Chinese domestic market.

"China will continue resisting USA demands in certain areas, such as changes to its industrial strategy and the role of the state in its economy", said Eswar Prasad, a Cornell University economist who was head of the China division at the International Monetary Fund.

Chinese leaders have offered to narrow their multibillion-dollar trade surplus with the United States. Imports declined 1.5 percent to $178.4 billion.

China's exports across the Pacific fell more than 2 percent in January from a year earlier, data from the customs administration showed, after shrinking in December.

The Chinese delegation will be led by Vice Premier Liu He, China's point man on trade, and central bank governor Yi Gang.

The state-run tabloid Global Times said in an editorial late on Wednesday that although Washington had started the trade war, it "was now more willing to reach an agreement".

"China will never harm its fundamental interests", the paper said. "The policy has been tested by the trade war and we have seen the change in Washington's attitude".

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