China and the United States continue to move towards finalizing a “phase one” trade deal. Speaking to the Economic Club of New York, President Trump stated that the United States is “close” to a deal and that it “could happen soon.” The President was also quick to note that he would only accept a deal that is “good for the United States and our workers and our great companies.”
This news follows comments made last week by Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesperson Gao Feng, who told the press that China and the United States have agreed to reduce tariffs over time if they are able to finalize a “phase one” agreement. “In the past two weeks, the lead negotiators from both sides have had serious and constructive discussions on resolving various core concerns appropriately. Both sides have agreed to cancel additional tariffs in different phases, as both sides make progress in their negotiations,” said Feng, according to Reuters.
The two countries would reduce tariffs over time, although the extent of the reductions will depend on what is included in the ultimate agreement. The United States could potentially cancel the tariffs scheduled to be imposed on December 15 as part of the agreement. Given the Administration’s willingness to use tariffs as leverage to achieve its broader trade goals, which tariffs would be reduced and by how much is largely uncertain. President Trump also noted in his remarks that he would substantially increase tariffs if the two countries were unable to reach a deal.
Both comments suggest that China and the United States are still in the process of “papering” the handshake deal reached last month between President Trump and President Xi Jinping. The agreement, originally blogged here, centers on a commitment by China to purchase up to $50 billion of U.S. agricultural products in return for the suspension of planned U.S. tariff increases on $250 billion in Chinese goods.
Both sides had hoped to finalize the agreement at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Chile this month, but Chile called off the event due to ongoing protests in the country. A new venue has proven elusive. President Trump suggested Iowa, but China is unlikely to agree to a location in the heartland of the United States. An administration official said that London is a possibility, after the NATO summit in December.