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Trade war

US moving 'quickly' toward trade deal with China, Trump says

President also warns there is no guarantee of an agreement

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar at the White House on March 14.
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar at the White House on March 14.   © Getty Images

NEW YORK -- U.S. President Donald Trump and his Treasury secretary both sounded an upbeat note Thursday about progress on trade talks with China, though Trump also cautioned that there is no guarantee of a final deal.

"We're doing very well with China talks," Trump told reporters at the White House as he sat down with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.

"We're moving along at a very high level," he said. "We're getting what we have to get, and I think we're getting it relatively quickly."

"As to whether or not we'll strike a final deal, that I would never want to say," Trump said. "If it's not a deal that's a great deal for us, we're not going to make it."

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a key figure in trade talks with China, told a hearing at the House of Representatives that he and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer spoke with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, Beijing's top trade negotiator, over the phone on Wednesday.

Last month, Trump delayed for the second time the deadline to increase tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25% after in-person talks with Liu in Washington, raising hopes of an end to the prolonged trade war between the world's two largest economies.

A summit between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping had been expected later this month at the American leader's Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, but U.S. officials have said the timing is not set. Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow said last week that it "could go into April."

U.S. media reported Thursday that Beijing has scrapped plans for Xi's visit to Mar-a-Lago in March and is now seeking to combine a long-discussed state visit with the announcement of a trade deal.

Along with a commitment by China to ramp up purchases of American goods, any trade agreement is expected to address issues including intellectual property protection, technology transfers, currency manipulation and state subsidies -- areas where Washington has repeatedly accused Beijing of unfair practices.

U.S. lawmakers have raised doubts over progress on structural issues as well as the enforceability of a potential deal.

There have also been reports that the Chinese side is wary of a hasty meeting without hammering out the details of an agreement first.

At Thursday's hearing, Mnuchin offered reassurances that he and Lighthizer are working "diligently" on talks with Beijing.

"There is over a 150-page document that we are working on," he said. "It will have -- if we reach an agreement -- a very clear enforcement provision."

"I expect that something will resolve in the near future," Mnuchin said.

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