President Donald Trump hailed progress made in trade talks with China this week, saying he may extend a tariff truce and take steps to sell a potential deal with opposition lawmakers.
Trump’s comments signal the two sides may be approaching a deal after two days of high-level talks in Beijing. The two countries said they are working toward an initial written agreement and will continue negotiations next week in Washington. The U.S. has threatened to more than double tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods if there’s no deal by March 1.
“It’s going extremely well,” Trump said, referring to the negotiations that wrapped up Friday in Beijing. “If we can make the deal it would be my honor to remove” the tariffs, but otherwise many billions of dollars are pouring into Treasury, the president said at the White House on Friday.
President Xi Jinping also sounded upbeat, saying the week-long round of meetings “achieved important progress in another step,” according to China’s Xinhua News Agency.
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While Trump doesn’t need the backing of lawmakers to impose or revoke tariffs, the president on Friday said he would consider bringing Democrats to the negotiating table. Trump’s remarks suggest he may be preparing a campaign to sell a potential trade deal with China in Washington. Some Democrats have pressed Trump to stick to a tougher approach to Beijing.
“Any deal I make toward the end I’m going to bring Schumer — at least offer him — and Pelosi, — I’m going to say please join me on the deal,” said Trump referring to Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “I’ll put them in the room and let them speak up.”
Trump’s optimistic comments contrast with the measured tone of the official U.S. statement on the talks released by the White House. In its statement, the U.S. cautioned that “much work remains,” making no mention of the “consensus in principle” cited by the Chinese in their own statement.
Investors applauded signs that the trade war between the world’s two largest economies isn’t escalating. U.S. equities surged, with the S&P 500 Index rising 0.8 percent by 11:44 a.m. in New York.
Both sides agreed to resume discussions in the U.S. capital next week as they work toward a “memorandum of understanding” that could form the basis of a deal between Trump and Xi. A summit meeting between the leaders hasn’t yet been scheduled.
The U.S. has set a deadline of March 1 to ratchet up tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25 percent from 10 percent. Earlier this week, Trump repeated on Friday that he’s open to extending that deadline for higher tariffs if the two sides are close to striking a deal. Bloomberg News reported that Trump is considering a 60-day extension for negotiations.
The White House statement on Friday said the Americans focused on structural issues in the Chinese economy “including forced technology transfer, intellectual property rights, cyber theft, agriculture, services, non-tariff barriers, and currency.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sounded a positive note in Beijing, saying he and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer held productive meetings with China’s Vice Premier Liu He. Xi also met Mnuchin and Lighthizer on Friday.
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The two sides remained far apart this week on structural reforms to China’s economy that the U.S. has requested, according to three U.S. and Chinese officials who asked not to be identified because the talks were private. They said it would likely take a meeting between Xi and Trump to seal a deal.