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US, China 'very, very close' to signing trade pact: Trump


Washington:  US President Donald Trump has expressed optimism about the prospects for a trade agreement with China, a day after he delayed a scheduled increase in tariffs on Chinese imports.

"And I told you last night ... but I told you how well we did with our trade talks in China," he said at the 2019 White House Business Session with state governors, Efe news reported.

"And it looks like they'll be coming back quickly again," Trump said, referring to the senior Chinese officials, who were in Washington last week for trade negotiations.

The US leader said plans were underway for a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping where he expects to formalise a trade pact.

"And we're going to have another summit. We're going to have a signing summit, which is even better. So hopefully, we can get that completed. But we're getting very, very close," Trump told the governors.

He announced on Sunday that he was delaying an increase from 10 percent to 25 percent in the tariffs his administration levied earlier on roughly $200 million in Chinese products.

The hike was set to take effect March 1.

"I am pleased to report that the U.S. has made substantial progress in our trade talks with China on important structural issues including intellectual property protection, technology transfer, agriculture, services, currency, and many other issues," Trump wrote on Twitter.

The upbeat appraisal followed four days of discussions in Washington.

Leading the US delegation was Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, while Deputy Premier Liu He headed the Chinese team.

Trump also said that officials from both governments were finalizing the details of a meeting with Xi at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

"It's encouraging that the Chinese delegation will be returning soon to Washington to continue the work. We urge both parties to produce an accord that deals completely with the concerns of US businesses and workers and that it be for a fixed time and enforceable," Doug Barry, communications director with the US-China Business Council, told EFE.

The pact must include the mutual elimination of punitive tariffs, he said.

The trade war between the world's two largest economies, launched last year by the Trump administration, has provoked volatility in global financial markets.

Lawmakers from the president's party - traditionally in favor of free trade - welcomed the optimistic signals coming out of the White House.

"Encouraging news from @POTUS (President of the United States) that progress is being made in a trade deal with China. Hopefully this leads to an agreement that stops China's theft of US intellectual property and avoids a full blown trade war," Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania tweeted.

Trump and Xi agreed during a Dec. 1 meeting in Buenos Aires to observe a 90-day truce in the trade battle

Both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have lowered their forecasts of global economic growth as a consequence of the tensions over trade between Washington and Beijing.

China has already adopted several goodwill measures in pursuit of an accord, such as lowering tariffs on US vehicle imports, resuming soy purchases from the United States and introducing an initiative that would prohibit forced technology transfer from American countries doing business in the Asian nation.

But some in Washington remain skeptical, saying that China has shown little interest in making the kind of major structural changes to its economy demanded by trade hawks in the Trump administration.

The United States sold $130 billion in goods and services to China in 2017, while US imports from the Asian giant totaled $506 billion.

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