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U.S. says progress made in China trade talks

President Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping hope to sign deal at summit in Chile next month

By Shawn Donnan

The U.S. and China are close to finalizing sections of the first phase of a trade deal that President Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping hope to sign at a summit in Chile next month, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said.

During a call Friday morning in Washington with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin made progress on “phase one” of the agreement that Trump announced earlier month, Lighthizer’s office said in the statement. Stocks climbed on the news, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index reaching a record.

“They made headway on specific issues and the two sides are close to finalizing some sections of the agreement,” the statement said.

The call came just a day after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence gave a long-awaited speech excoriating China for its authoritarian rule and backing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. The speech prompted an angry response from China’s foreign ministry where a spokeswoman urged Pence and the U.S. to focus on its own problems.

Trump has said he wants to sign the first phase of a trade deal with China at an Nov. 16-17 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Santiago, Chile. But when he announced the phased deal earlier this month he also conceded the two sides still needed to work out many details and to put it in writing.

“We’re doing very well with China” and “they want to make a deal very badly,” Trump told reporters as he left the White House on Friday.

There are still major questions over whether the second phase of a deal will ever happen. But the first phase is expected to see China resume purchases of U.S. agricultural products at a level last seen before the trade wars started in 2019, in return for a pause in further U.S. tariffs. Officials have said it will also include Chinese commitments on intellectual property, currency provisions and promises of some regulatory changes related to agricultural imports.

In a sign that not all issues had been resolved, USTR said discussions “will go on continuously at the deputy level” with Lighthizer and Mnuchin due to speak with Liu again “in the near future.”

White House officials were nevertheless eager on Friday to continue portraying progress in bringing at least a pause to the trade wars that have unnerved financial markets and businesses around the world for more than a year and contributed to a slowing U.S. economy.

“We had excellent talks this morning. That will continue,” Peter Navarro, a White House trade adviser, told Fox News.

“This is not one-and-done in phase one. This is phase one hopefully mid-November and then just keep rolling along,” he said. “There’s no chance that if we get all three phases of the deal that it will be watered down in any way.”

To contact the reporter on this story:
Shawn Donnan in Washington at sdonnan@bloomberg.net
To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Simon Kennedy at skennedy4@bloomberg.net
Alister Bull, Brendan Murray
© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.
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