The United States and China are close to agreement on the first phase of a trade deal, U.S. President Donald Trump said, after top negotiators from the two countries spoke over the telephone and agreed to keep working on remaining issues.
Trump said Washington was in the “final throes” of work on a deal that would defuse a 16-month trade war with Beijing, but also underscored Washington’s support for protesters in Hong Kong, a potential huge sore point with China.
China said it had summoned U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad to protest the passage in the U.S. Congress of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, saying the bill amounted to interference in a Chinese internal matter.
“We’re in the final throes of a very important deal, I guess you could say one of the most important deals in trade ever. It’s going very well but at the same time we want to see it go well in Hong Kong,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
He said had a very good relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and expected him to ensure a positive outcome in the Chinese-ruled city of Hong Kong, where pro-democracy parties won almost 90% of 452 district council seats in recent elections.
“I think that President Xi can make that happen. I know him and I know he’d like to make it happen,” Trump said, without elaborating on what exactly he expected Xi to do.
His remarks followed a telephone call on Tuesday by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin with Chinese Vice Premier Liu that was disclosed by China’s Commerce Ministry
It said the negotiators discussed core issues related to the phase one deal and reached “a common understanding on resolving relevant problems.”
Completion of a phase one deal had been expected in November, but trade experts and people close to the White House said last week it could slide into the new year, given China’s pressure for more extensive tariff rollbacks.