Wire Service
2 minute read
10 Apr 2019
5:48 pm

No ‘arbitrary deadline’ in US-China trade talks: Mnuchin


There is no "arbitrary deadline" to conclude the US-China trade talks, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday, a week after President Donald Trump said the talks were due to take another month.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says White House lawyers consulted with his department over President Donald Trump's tax returns. AFP/GREG BAKER

“We’re not going to set an arbitrary deadline,” Mnuchin told CNBC, adding that the details of an enforcement mechanism for the agreement had now been “pretty much agreed.”

“I think we have some very important issues to address but both sides are working very hard,” he told the business news cable broadcaster.

“Some of the chapters are close to finished, some of them still have technical issues,” he added. “We’ve pretty much agreed on the enforcement mechanism.”

A sticking point in the talks has been American officials’ insistence that any final agreement have teeth — and that they retain the ability to impose fresh tariffs should Beijing backslide on its commitments.

Trump said last week a conclusion in the talks was probably “four weeks” away but since discussions began earlier this year to end the nine-month trade war, the finish line has repeatedly slipped further into the future.

The president said as far back as February that a “signing summit” between himself and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping was likely to be held in March.

Mnuchin stuck to the Trump administration’s line of refusing to say whether Washington would agree to lift the steep punitive tariffs imposed last year in the event of any agreement.

Mnuchin added that he and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer had telephoned top Chinese trade officials late Tuesday.

“We went late into last night. We have another call tomorrow,” he said, adding that the talks were “very productive.”

“This will be the most significant changes to the economic relationship between the US and China in really the last 40 years,” he said.

Since July, Washington and Beijing have exchange tariffs on more than $360 billion in two-way trade, with Trump accusing China of building global industrial predominance through alleged unfair trading practices and state intervention in markets.