U.S., China make progress on trade, but talks to continue

 In Politics

Donald Trump is pictured. | Getty Images

President Donald Trump is facing increasing blowback from Congress over a tweet that indicated his administration would ease criminal penalties on Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE to save Chinese jobs. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

A final deal may not come together before Chinese Vice Premier Liu He returns to Beijing on Saturday, but negotiations appear to be headed for success.


The United States and China have made progress on a deal aimed at boosting U.S. exports to the Asian giant by about $200 billion in coming years, but do not have a final agreement, two administration officials said late Friday.

The two sides were still working out the wording of a joint statement, but hoped to issue it tonight, the officials said. Talks are expected to continue at a later date.

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“This deal is not going to fall apart. POTUS has blessed it now,” one senior administration official said late Friday afternoon.

In exchange for taking steps to increase purchases of U.S. goods and liquefied natural gas, China wants Trump to back off his threat to impose tariffs on $50 billion to $150 billion worth of Chinese goods and to restrict Chinese investment in certain sectors of the U.S. economy.

That is still being negotiated, and the administration wants a “trust but verify” approach that keeps those as possible remedies if China doesn’t deliver on promised reforms, one of the officials said.

Heading into the talks, there were expectations that Liu, the head of the Chinese delegation, was coming with promises to make big purchases of agricultural, energy and other products to bring bilateral trade into balance. However, Beijing’s offer is actually to open its market in a number of sectors by reducing trade barriers, the official said.

“I think the key point in all this is that the trade talks are going very well,” White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow told Fox Business Network on Friday. “I mean actually, the president himself has shown more enthusiasm and optimism about this trade deal than I’ve ever seen him.”

Liu met with Trump on Thursday and gave “an excellent presentation” of steps Beijing was willing to make to bring bilateral trade into balance and address other U.S. concerns, Kudlow said.

“He outlined a whole bunch of remedies for the trade deficit issue and the barriers — the tariff and non-tariff barriers — and also of course the technology theft problems,” Kudlow said.

The Chinese government described the talk as “positive, constructive and fruitful,” according to China Central Television.

A deal that provides substantial new market openings for U.S. exports could find strong support among business groups concerned that Trump would settle for an agreement that provides a short term sales bump without addressing major problems.

The U.S. business sector was reserving judgment until it sees the details.

“We’d be pleased if the two sides make enough progress to dial back on tariffs,” said John Frisbie, president of the U.S.-China Business Council. “But, they need to then move quickly to substantive negotiations on the structural issues that frustrate market access in China for American companies and get improvements in intellectual property and technology protections.”

In that vein, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer weighed in on the negotiations Friday, urging Trump not to accept a Chinese pledge to buy American goods in exchange for dropping a threat to impose tariffs.

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