Trump: Trade Negotiations with China ‘Going Extremely Well’

U.S. President Donald Trump is hailing progress in ongoing trade talks with China, with negotiators set to meet next week in Washington as the March 1 deadline approaches.

«It’s going extremely well, who knows what (that) means because it only matters if we get it done. But we’re very much working very closely with China and President Xi, who I respect a lot, very good relationship that we have, and we’re a lot closer than we ever were in this country with having a real trade deal,» Trump told reporters at the White House Friday.

Earlier in the day, China’s President Xi Jinping met with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in Beijing. The official Xinhua news agency reported Xi said that he hopes the two sides can reach a mutually beneficial deal in their next round of negotiations.

A U.S. Treasury Department statement said the U.S. delegation focused on issues such as forced technology transfers, intellectual property rights, cyber theft, agriculture, services and currency.

«Detailed and intensive discussions led to progress between the two parties. Much work remains, however,» the Treasury statement said.

China’s state media report said the talks over the past two days made some progress on difficult and important issues. The statement said although much work remains to be done, the American officials said they were hopeful and willing to work with China to reach a deal in line with the interests of both sides.

This week’s high-level discussions were aimed at reaching a deal ahead of the March deadline for an escalation in tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports.

In a tweet on Friday, before meeting with Xi, Secretary Mnuchin said that he and Lighthizer had “productive meetings” with China’s top negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He.

Hu Xijin, the editor in chief of China’s nationalistic tabloid the Global Times was optimistic, noting that there is a “great possibility for China and the U.S. reaching (a) final agreement.”

In a tweet, he said, “From what I know, during the just-concluded round of China-U.S. trade talks, the two sides have discussed how to draft a document on comprehensively solving China-U.S. trade disputes, namely a MoU,” adding that “After nearly one year of tough talks, I think the finishing line is nearly in sight.”

Despite, Hu’s optimism, few analysts see anything truly final being hammered out in the 90-day period that ends March 2. At best, most express a hope that the two sides will be able to create a framework that charts the way forward.

Last July, President Trump began raising tariffs that were aimed at “confronting China’s unfair trade practices,” such as a lack of reciprocal market access and complaints that Beijing steals or forces the handover of technology from companies. The trade tussle also seeks to address China’s multi-billion-dollar trade surplus with the United States and generous subsidies for state industries.

China has responded by offering to narrow the trade surplus by purchasing more American soybeans, natural gas and other exports, but its willingness to press forward with key structural reforms remains a key sticking point.

VOA Mandarin Service reporter Jinxun Li contributed to this report.