Negotiators between China and the U.S. have been working diligently, going line by line, through the text of an agreement that would be placed in front of President Trump and his Chineses counterpart Xi Jinping. This agreement could defuse an almost year-long trade war, according to officials familiar with the matter.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer held meetings in Beijing on Friday. They were there partly to ensure there were no discrepancies in the English and Chinese-language versions of the text. But they also wanted to balance the number of working visits to each capital. Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is due in Washington next week.
The focus of this meeting became a key issue after U.S. officials complained that Chinese versions of the text had walked back or omitted commitments made by negotiators, according to an official.
The two sides have very different understandings of certain words, according to one of the officials, who noted that China’s Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen started his career as a translator at the ministry.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Thursday the two sides were “close” but “not there yet,” and that the U.S. is willing to keep negotiating for weeks or even months yet to reach a sustainable deal.
“This is not time-dependent,” he said in a speech in Washington on Thursday. “This is policy- and enforcement-dependent.”
The key areas where the U.S. is demanding better terms include China improving treatment of U.S. intellectual property, opening up market access for American companies and agreeing on an enforcement mechanism for the trade deal, Kudlow said. The U.S. also wants regular meetings to be able to assess whether China is living up to promises, and wants to be able to impose tariffs on China — with no threat of counter-retaliation — if it fails to do so, he said.