FUKUOKA, Japan -- U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Saturday that trade talks between America and China are unlikely to make any headway before President Donald Trump and his counterpart Xi Jinping meet later this month.
Speaking in the Japanese city of Fukuoka, where he is attending a meeting of G-20 finance ministers, Mnuchin said he would discuss the trade war with People's Bank of China Gov. Yi Gang one-on-one on Sunday, but cautioned that the meeting would not produce any definitive outcomes.
Specifics, he stressed, will have to wait until Trump and Xi come face to face at the G-20 leaders summit in Osaka on June 28-29.
"President Trump has been very clear," Mnuchin said. "Our objective is to get the right agreement, not just to get an agreement."
The secretary added that if China is serious and wants to pick up where the negotiations broke down a month ago, then the U.S. is ready to talk.
"If they want to come back to the table and have a real agreement, we will be prepared to negotiate," Mnuchin said. "If they want to come back to the table and complete the deal on the terms that we were continuing to negotiate, that would be great. If not, we will continue on our plan" to keep raising tariffs.
Mnuchin insisted "there is no question" that the current impasse is the "result of [China] backtracking on significant commitments."
The secretary is also scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting with Japan's Finance Minister Taro Aso on Sunday but said they would not be discussing trade or currency issues.
On the global economy, the secretary rejected suggestions that the U.S. trade war with China is to blame for slowing momentum, pointing out that there had been signs of trouble before Trump imposed tariffs on Chinese imports.
"Clearly there is a slowdown in Europe, there is a slowdown in China, there is a slowdown in other parts," Mnuchin told reporters, adding that he did not think this was "in any way the result of trade tensions at the moment."
"The strength of the U.S. economy is the bright spot of the world economy right now," Mnuchin said. Lower-than-expected U.S. employment numbers released on Friday are no cause for concern, in his view.
"I wouldn't read too much into any one number," Mnuchin said.
Both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund downgraded their economic outlooks this week, pointing to the U.S.-China trade tensions as the culprit. The IMF estimated that tariffs imposed as part of the trade war could reduce global gross domestic product by up to 0.5% next year.
Japan's Aso has previously expressed concern about the impact of the trade war on the global economy. And Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told the Nikkei Asian Review in an interview on Friday that "trade tensions globally is something that's weighing on the economic outlook and affecting economic investment."