VOA NEWS – Steve Herman
WHITE HOUSE — The U.S. president and the vice premier of China confirmed on Thursday that while significant progress has been made, there is no new trade agreement yet between the world’s two largest economies.
«We’re certainly getting a lot closer,» Trump said sitting at his desk in the Oval Office with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He alongside him.
Announcement of a deal could come in «the next four weeks, maybe less, maybe more» and at that time, something «monumental could be announced,» he said, adding, «We are rounding the turn. We’ve made a lot of progress.»
Liu, speaking in English, praised the direct guidance of Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, adding: «Hopefully, we’ll get a good result.»
Trump said if a deal can be reached, then he will hold a summit with Xi.
«If we have a deal, there will be a summit,» he said. «I look forward to seeing President Xi. It’ll be here.»
Intellectual property protection, as well as certain tariffs remain under discussion, Trump confirmed.
«Some of the toughest things have been agreed to,» he added.
Asked to make a comment by the president about the status of the negotiations, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer was more cautious, replying, «We’ve made a lot of headway. We’re working very hard,» but «there are still some major, major issues left.»
Responding to questions from reporters, Trump said, «We’ve never done a deal like this with China,» predicting the agreement could be «the granddaddy of them all» and «a tremendous thing for the world.»
He also described it as potentially «epic» and «historic.»
The two countries had originally hoped to reach an agreement by March 1, but negotiations have extended well beyond that date.
«The relationship with China is very strong, probably the strongest it’s ever been,» Trump declared.
Liu had met Wednesday in Washington with Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
For months, the economic superpowers have engaged in a reciprocal tariff war, with both countries imposing levies on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of each other’s exports, which could be eased or ended with a deal.
Officials familiar with their negotiations say an agreement could give Beijing until 2025 to meet its commitment on U.S. commodity purchases and allow U.S. companies to wholly own businesses in China.
«Nobody thought these talks would be easy, but as they enter these final stages, we’re encouraged by the continued progress towards detailed text on both structural and enforcement issues,» said Linda Dempsey, National Association of Manufacturers vice president of International Economic Affairs, following Thursday’s Trump-Liu meeting.
«Manufacturers in the United States have long been harmed by China’s unfair trade practices. That is why we believe negotiations must result in an innovative, enforceable bilateral trade agreement that levels the playing field for manufacturers in the United States,» Dempsey added.
Trump’s meeting with Liu came just days after a Chinese woman, Yujing Zhang, was arrested trying to enter the U.S. president’s Atlantic oceanfront retreat in Florida, and detained after she entered the compound claiming she was there for what turned out to be a non-existent event.
She was charged with illegal entering and lying to U.S. agents. The U.S. Secret Service, which protects Trump and his family, said she was carrying four cellphones, a laptop computer, an external hard drive, thumb drive containing computer malware and two Chinese passports.