Mnuchin Says China Trade Talks Are Nearing Final Round

WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Saturday that he believed the United States and China were nearing the final stage of trade negotiations, moving closer to what he said would be the biggest change in the economic relationship between the countries in 40 years.

Mr. Mnuchin’s note of optimism comes as the world’s two largest economies are racing to end a protracted trade dispute that has resulted in damaging tariffs and business uncertainty and provided a drag on the global economy.

“We’re hopeful that we’re getting close to the final round of concluding issues,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Mr. Mnuchin again repeated his claim that the biggest obstacle to a trade deal — how to enforce the agreement — is nearly settled. The United States has been pushing China to agree to a mechanism that would allow Washington to impose tariffs on Chinese goods if Beijing reneges on certain parts of the deal.

On Saturday, Mr. Mnuchin said that the United States and China would both have the authority to enforce commitments that are agreed to, indicating the ability for Beijing to exert some control in the future as well.

“We’ve already agreed there’s a big component of this that there will be real enforcement on both sides,” he said, “including a detailed enforcement office on both sides with significant resources.”

At a congressional hearing in February, Robert E. Lighthizer, President Trump’s top trade negotiator, described a complex enforcement mechanism under discussion that aimed to ensure China would live up to its promises.

Mr. Lighthizer said at the time that China had agreed to regular meetings at the levels of office director, vice minister and minister that would allow the United States to keep tabs on China’s behavior and air complaints from companies about unfair business practices. If China did not keep its promises, the United States would respond “proportionally but unilaterally.” The implication was that the United States would respond with tariffs.

American officials have also been pressing China to agree not to retaliate against the United States if it reimposes tariffs on Chinese goods. China has been reluctant to agree to a one-sided enforcement mechanism, viewing it as infringing on its sovereignty and giving Washington too much power over its economy.

“If complaints are real, we may have to use tariffs to deal with them, and we’re asking the Chinese not to retaliate,” Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, told the Fox Business Network in March when discussing enforcement of a deal.

People who have been closely tracking the talks cautioned that enforcement continued to be an obstacle that remained unsettled because China and the United States had not agreed on the specifics of penalties.

“The problem with the so-called enforcement issue has to do with finding a mechanism that allows punishment for violations of the agreement,” said Michael Pillsbury, a China scholar at the Hudson Institute who advises the Trump administration. “That hasn’t been done yet.”

On Saturday, Mr. Mnuchin would not clarify whether the United States and China had agreed on an enforcement mechanism that would allow only Washington to respond with tariffs as punishment for violating the deal.

“I want to be careful in answering that because I don’t want to get into the details of the negotiations and specifically on tariffs,” he said.

But Mr. Mnuchin said that he expected enforcement of the trade pact to be reciprocal.

“There are certain commitments that the United States is making in this agreement and there are certain commitments that China is making, and I would expect that the enforcement agreement works in both directions,” he said. “We expect to honor our commitments and if we don’t, there should be certain repercussions, and the same way in the other direction.”

Mr. Mnuchin would not specify what commitments the United States was making. Mr. Trump has been pushing China to open its economy and end practices that he says have put American companies at a disadvantage.

The deal under discussion would require China to end its longstanding practice of requiring American companies to hand over valuable technology as a condition of doing business there and would open portions of China’s economy more liberally. The two sides have discussed China’s buying more than $1 trillion worth of goods over the next several years to help lower the trade gap between the countries.

To get China to the negotiating table, Mr. Trump slapped tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods. That punishment has begun to pinch China’s economy and Beijing’s negotiators are demanding that at least some of the tariffs be removed as a condition of any final deal. It remains unclear how many — and at what point — those tariffs will be lifted.

The Treasury secretary made clear that there were still provisions that need to be completed and that a deal was not yet certain.

Officials from the United States and China are in regular contact by telephone, Mr. Mnuchin said, and they are determining if additional face-to-face meetings are needed.

Source

more recommended stories

  • House to Vote on Raising Federal Minimum Wage to $15

    “What we’re doing is working,” said.

  • 2020 Won’t Repeat the Mistakes of 2016, Whatever They Were

    WASHINGTON — Democrats still don’t agree.

  • On Politics: House Kills Impeachment Resolution

    • The National Republican Congressional Committee.

  • At North Carolina Rally, Trump Bets on Divisive Attacks as Way to Bolster Re-election Bid

    “Big Rally tonight in Greenville, North.

  • House Passes Intelligence Bill That Would Expand Secrecy Around Operatives

    WASHINGTON — The House passed a.

  • Trump and Epstein Partied and Commented on Women in 1992 Video

    WASHINGTON — President Trump has been.

  • 5 Ways John Paul Stevens Made a Mark on the Supreme Court

    WASHINGTON — Justice John Paul Stevens,.

  • With Name-Calling and Twitter Battles, House Republican Campaign Arm Copies Trump’s Playbook

    “I hope the lesson the N.R.C.C..

  • Top Myanmar Generals Are Barred From Entering U.S. Over Rohingya Killings

    BANGKOK — The United States has.

  • Iran Rejects Pompeo’s Suggestion It Is Willing to Negotiate Over Missile Program

    WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike.

  • Trump’s New Top Labor Official Is Expected to Advance an Anti-Labor Agenda

    Congressional Republicans, members of their staffs.

  • Roger Stone Is Barred From Social Media After Posts Attacking Russia Inquiry

    WASHINGTON — A federal judge on.

  • North Korea Warns U.S. to Quit Military Drills With South Korea

    SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea.

  • The Painful Roots of Trump’s ‘Go Back’ Comment

    It was there in 1882, when.

  • Democratic Fund-Raising: In a Packed Field, Five Candidates Stand Out

    Contributions From Individual Donors The bigger.

  • Pence’s Border Trip Illustrates Conflicting Messages About Detained Migrants

    Although many people were appalled by.

  • Trump Sends Negotiators to Geneva for Nuclear Talks With Russians and Also Seeks to Limit Chinese Warheads

    WASHINGTON — President Trump is sending.

  • E.P.A. Broke Rules in Shake-Up of Science Panels, Federal Watchdog Says

    Want climate news in your inbox?.

  • Joe Biden’s Health Care Plan Focuses on Shoring Up the Affordable Care Act

    After remaining vague for months about.

  • Huge Turnout Is Expected in 2020. So Which Party Would Benefit?

    The opportunity for Democrats, however small,.

  • On Politics: Trump Tells Congresswomen to ‘Go Back’ to Their Countries

    Good Monday morning. Here are some.

  • The Power Went Out. Where Was de Blasio?

    He was in rural Iowa, illustrating.

  • When Big Tobacco Invoked Eric Garner to Fight a Menthol Cigarette Ban

    In an interview in the sanctuary.

  • Trump Backs Away From Barriers on Foreign Uranium

    WASHINGTON — President Trump said he.

  • Joe Biden Decides He Doesn’t Need to Stay Above the Fray After All

    ATKINSON, N.H. — Joseph R. Biden.

  • Pence Tours Border Facilities – Video

    Channels & Shows Home Search U.S..

  • Man Attacking ICE Detention Center Is Fatally Shot by the Police

    The police fatally shot a man.

  • Pence Defends Conditions at Migrant Detention Centers in Texas

    Vice President Mike Pence played down.

  • Top Ocasio-Cortez Aide Becomes a Symbol of Democratic Division

    WASHINGTON — House Democratic leaders, their.

  • Parties Face ‘Crackup’ as Outsiders Wield Social Media Against the Establishment

    WASHINGTON — On the night that.

  • New Details on Family Separations Fuel Emotional Hearing

    WASHINGTON — At least 18 infants.

  • One Candidate In, One Candidate Out: This Week in the 2020 Race

    Every Saturday morning, we’re publishing “This.