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Trump says March 1 deadline for China trade talks not 'magical' date

EconomyFeb 19, 2019 03:53PM ET
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© Reuters. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, listens as Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, talks while they line up for a group photo at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing

By Jeff Mason and David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that trade talks with China were going well and suggested he was open to pushing off the deadline to complete negotiations, saying March 1 was not a "magical" date.

Tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports are scheduled to rise to 25 percent from 10 percent by March 1 if the world's two largest economies do not settle their trade dispute, but Trump has suggested several times that he would be open to postponing the deadline.

"They are very complex talks. They're going very well," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. "I can't tell you exactly about timing, but the date is not a magical date. A lot of things can happen."

Trump said the real question would be whether the United States would raise the tariffs as planned.

"I know that China would like not for that to happen, so I think they're trying to move fast so that doesn’t happen."

On Tuesday, the United States and China launched a new round of talks in Washington, with follow-up sessions at a higher level scheduled for later in the week. The negotiations followed a week of talks in Beijing that ended last week without a deal but which officials said had yielded progress on some key issues.

Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that the United States as part of a trade deal was seeking to secure a pledge from China that it will not devalue its yuan currency.

Officials from the two countries, which resumed talks on Tuesday in Washington, are discussing how to address currency policy in a "Memorandum of Understanding" that would form the basis of a U.S.-China trade deal, the news agency reported, citing unnamed people involved in and briefed on the discussions.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had told Reuters last October that currency issues must be part of U.S.-China trade negotiations and that Chinese officials told him that further depreciation of the yuan was not in their interests.

The Bloomberg report said the U.S. request for a pledge to keep the yuan's value stable was aimed at neutralizing any effort by Beijing to devalue its currency to counter American tariffs.

Spokesmen for the U.S. Trade Representative's office, which is leading the talks, and the U.S. Treasury, which leads currency policy, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Two days of negotiations between deputy-level officials began on Tuesday, led by Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish on the U.S. side. Higher-level talks involving Mnuchin and led by USTR Robert Lighthizer, are expected to begin on Thursday.

This week's talks were aimed at "achieving needed structural changes in China that affect trade between the United States and China. The two sides will also discuss China's pledge to purchase a substantial amount of goods and services from the United States," the White House said in a statement issued late on Monday.

Trump, who is eager for a deal and has praised his counterpart, Chinese President Xi Jinping, while also insisting on structural changes to China's practices related to intellectual property and forced technology transfers by companies doing business there, emphasized that progress was being made.

“I can only say that the talks with China on trade have gone very, very well," he said.

Trump says March 1 deadline for China trade talks not 'magical' date
 

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Dustin Lynn
Dustin Lynn Feb 19, 2019 8:31PM ET
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It's unfortunate that so many people fancy themselves experts on China without having ever been there. Their economy has been reliant on massive and mostly unnecessary construction of overpriced and seriously low quality housing and infrastructure projects. Hospitals, malls, apartment buildings,  government offices etc. look uninhabitable just a few years after completion. They literally do no maintenance on or cleaning of anything seemingly ever. China's official debt to gdp still looks manageable, but their private debt load is estimated to be north of 50 trillion.. with a T.. dollars. Combine that with the largest elderly population on Earth, foreign companies moving production out of China as quickly as possible, infrastructure that begins crumbling upon completion, and a population that will not tolerate tough economic times ever.. now is not a good time to be a communist leader there. The entire world, except for Russia and Pakistan, now clearly see China for what they are.
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Dustin Lynn
Dustin Lynn Feb 19, 2019 8:03PM ET
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Compared to the efforts of any previous president, this will be the best deal ever achieved with regard to unfair trade practices with China. It doesn't require intelligence to know that regardless of how deplorable one is.
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Bao Down
Bao Down Feb 19, 2019 6:22AM ET
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Trade deal or not = buy rumor sell the news
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Kris GE
Kris GE Feb 19, 2019 1:02AM ET
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American people were promised cheap, cheap everything when China opened up for business in 1990. The big American corps went to China en-mass for the opportunity of huge profits, and an access to the biggest consumer market in the world. However the price they have had to pay is technology transfer, and forced JV with Chinese companies. This has been going on for almost 30 years, and in the name of these huge profits,, and market access US corps agreed with it. Now President Trump comes into the office and he wants to change that status quo. Where is this push coming from? Is it from the big US corps, who suddenly feel homesick, and want to come home? I don't think so. I think, the so called GENIE has been out of the bottle for so long, and she has grown so big on the fat profits made over those 30 years, that it will be very hard to put her back into this bottle. There will be a face saving DEAL for both sides, but not THE DEAL the president has been really aiming for.
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Grady Tennandez
Grady Tennandez Feb 19, 2019 12:27AM ET
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It is useless for US in competing with China. The biggest US marketable securities holder is china. Poor for u US! It is not your era anymore.
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Kevin Peralta
Kevin Peralta Feb 18, 2019 9:49PM ET
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China is too strong and can withhold these tarrifs longer than the usa can
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7 8
Arvind Ganotra
Arvind Ganotra Feb 18, 2019 9:29PM ET
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China has history of false promises. This will be another one
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10 9
rakesh amarnani
rakesh amarnani Feb 18, 2019 9:14PM ET
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At best, a temporary fix...
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2 2
Grady Tennandez
Grady Tennandez Feb 18, 2019 9:11PM ET
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US has lost to china's if we see from the economic side. Admit it US
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4 5
Erwin Nindyatama
Erwin Nindyatama Feb 18, 2019 9:09PM ET
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china will have no deal at all with US regarding the tarrifs...
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Gabe Domen
Gabe Domen Feb 18, 2019 9:00PM ET
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If someone believes that China will make "structural changes" just to please US in such a short period I would say is absolutely wrong. Wait and see.
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JP P
JP P Feb 18, 2019 9:00PM ET
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it wouldnt be to “please the US” but to save their economy. they need the US more than the US needs them
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Changyi He
Changyi He Feb 18, 2019 9:00PM ET
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That’s laughable. China is the only major economy with positive real interest rates. It will be fine while US is declining to stagflation
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3 1
Zoltan McVeigh
Zoltan McVeigh Feb 18, 2019 9:00PM ET
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Chinese economy is booming? Last year I heard claims the Chinese economy wouldn't even notice the tariffs. We know now that isn't true. They are in the process of trying to restart there economy with various stimulus plans. I agree China can survive without the United States, just as the US can survive without China. Both countries will have to readjust after decades of lopsided trade, rules and regulations. The US is no different than China... We only want to protect out best interests. But, don't insult anyone's intelligence by stating China wouldn't be impacted by losing one of the largest economic markets. Both countries will lose in the end.
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Changyi He
Changyi He Feb 18, 2019 9:00PM ET
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China has larger population than US, EU and Japan combined and potential to surpass these three countries combined. It is/soon will be the largest producer, consumer, exporter and importer on earth. And they have long term vision which spans decades. I don’t see how trade war affecting China long term. Even the trade surplus is not hindered by tariffs at all
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