China and US had ‘constructive discussions’ about phase-one trade deal

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (R) and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer (L) greet Chinese Vice Premier Liu He (C) as he arrives for trade talks at the Office of the US Trade Representative in Washington, DC, October 10, 2019. (

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer about a phase-one trade deal in a phone call Saturday morning, according to Chinese Ministry of Commerce.

The two sides had “constructive discussions” about “each other’s core concerns” and agreed to remain in close contact, the ministry reported. The call came at the request of Mnuchin and Lighthizer, it said.

White House Economic Advisor Larry Kudlow said Friday that Washington and Beijing were close to a deal.

“We’re getting close,” Kudlow told an event at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. “The mood music is pretty good, and that has not always been so in these things.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at record highs Friday on renewed optimism about trade talks after Kudlow’s comments.

There have been conflicting reports about the state of trade negotiations in recent days. The talks hit a stalemate this week as the U.S. pushes Beijing for greater concessions on intellectual property rights and forced technology transfers in exchange for a rollback of tariffs, people familiar with the matter told CNBC Wednesday.

China’s Commerce Ministry said Thursday tariffs should be cancelled in order to end the trade war.

“If both sides reach a phase one agreement, the level of tariff rollback will fully reflect the importance of the phase one agreement,” Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng said.

The White House is reportedly divided over the idea of rolling back tariffs, and President Donald Trump has said publicly that he hasn’t agreed to lifting any levies.

Beijing, for its part, is hesitant to include a specific amount of agricultural purchases in a deal, The Wall Street Journal reported. Trump has claimed Beijing agreed to purchase up to $50 billion in U.S. farm goods.

The U.S. and China agreed to a truce in the trade war last month after a summer of escalation in which the world’s two largest economies imposed billions of dollars in tariffs on each other’s goods.


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