Beijing and Washington are “maintaining close communication” over a much-anticipated phase one trade deal, China’s commerce ministry said Thursday, reiterating that tariffs must be reduced as part of any agreement.
Hopes had risen that the two sides were close to reaching a mini deal, but comments from President Trump and recent US legislation backing Hong Kong pro-democracy protests and China’s Uighur minority had appeared to throw the talks off track.
China’s commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng said at a press briefing Thursday that the two sides were “maintaining close communication.”
He added, however, that “if the two sides are to reach a phase one deal, tariffs should be reduced accordingly.”
On Tuesday, US President Donald Trump appeared to dash hopes for a deal this month by suggesting he would be happy waiting until after the 2020 presidential election before signing off on one.
China echoed those comments Wednesday by saying they “will not set any time limit” on signing an agreement.
But markets rebounded Thursday on a Bloomberg News report saying US negotiators expected a deal to be completed before a new round of US tariffs on China is due to hit on December 15.
Bloomberg quoted unnamed sources as saying Trump’s comments on waiting until after the 2020 election should not have been taken as a sign the talks had stalled.
The world’s two biggest economies have been locked in a bruising trade conflict for more than a year, hitting each other with tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of goods.