Published: 05:04 PM, 12 March 2019
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer spoke with Beijing’s top economic official Liu He over the phone to discuss “key issues” on trade, the official news agency Xinhua reported.
The top negotiators also discussed the “next steps” in their talks, the brief report said, without providing details. China and the United States have been locked in a trade war since last year, imposing tit-for-tat tariffs on more than $360 billion worth of mutual trade, spooking global markets. Top-level negotiators are trying to hammer out an agreement before a truce expires, potentially triggering additional US tariffs on Chinese goods.
A possible summit between President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping remains up in the air, the White House said Monday. Trump has previously expressed optimism that he will meet with Xi, probably at his Florida golf club Mar-a-Lago this month, to finalise an eventual trade deal. But Trump spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said it was too early to announce a meeting.
“In terms of whether or not we have a date set, not yet. We’re continuing negotiations with China,” she said at the White House. “When we have an announcement for the two leaders to sit down, we’ll let you know.” The press secretary also said she was unaware of any plan for Xi and Trump to speak by phone. Sanders said Trump will not agree to anything short of a deal beneficial to the United States.
She denied that the breakdown of Trump’s attempts to negotiate with North Korea over the country’s nuclear weapons had weakened his standing in Beijing. “I would say that’s absurd. He’s going to make a deal if it’s a good deal, if it’s in the best interest of America, and if he doesn’t feel like it’s a good deal, it’s not worth just signing a piece of paper,” Sanders said.
“The president’s gonna make sure whatever deal we get is in our best interest, that it’s fair and reciprocal trade, that it protects our intellectual property and has safeguards.”