Mnuchin: US-China trade talks nearing 'final round'

Both sides would hold two calls next and discuss whether more in-person meetings are needed to conclude the accord

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Saturday that a US-China trade agreement would go “way beyond” previous efforts to open China’s markets to US companies and expressed hope that the two sides are edging “close to the final round” of negotiations. He also called the agreement under discussion “the most significant change in the trading relationship in 40 years,” adding that it would have “real enforcement on both sides.”

Under the accord being discussed, the two countries would each establish an “enforcement office” to monitor compliance, he continued, with the US being open to facing “repercussions” if it doesn’t live up to its commitments in a potential trade deal with China.

“There are certain commitments that the United States is making in this agreement, and there are certain commitments that China is making,” Mnuchin told reporters on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank spring meetings in Washington. “I would expect that the enforcement mechanism works in both directions, that we expect to honor our commitments, and if we don’t, there should be certain repercussions, and the same way in the other direction,” he said.

The comments come as Beijing and Washington are seeking a deal to end a bitter trade war marked by tit-for-tat tariffs that have cost the world’s two largest economies billions of dollars, disrupted supply chains and rattled financial markets.

Among the main issues under discussion are US demands that China open more sectors of its economy to foreign and US firms. Asked whether such an opening would go beyond what was contemplated in the 2016 Bilateral Investment Treaty negotiations, Mnuchin replied:

“We are making progress, I want to be careful. This is not a public negotiation ... this is a very, very detailed agreement covering issues that have never been dealt with before,” he said. “This is way beyond anything that looked like a bilateral investment treaty.

The BIT talks, pursued by former President Barack Obama’s administration, stalled as China refused to satisfy US demands to open significant sectors of its economy to foreign investment. The talks were not taken up by the Trump administration, which pursued tariffs on Chinese goods instead, leading to the current talks.

But negotiations now seems to have a positive outcome, ending countries' nine-month trade and tariff war, which has cast a cloud over global growth and financial markets. According to Mnuchin, he and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer would hold two calls next week with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He. The officials are also discussing whether to hold more in-person meetings to conclude an agreement.

“We’re hopefully getting very close to the final round of these issues,” he said.

Similar articles