U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are heading for China early next week for talks intended to resolve the trade impasse between Washington and Beijing.
Mnuchin told White House reporters that they will leave on Monday, July 29, for face-to-face trade negotiations since talks broke down in May this year.
The Treasury Secretary said that they would spend Tuesday and Wednesday negotiating with Chinese leaders in Shanghai. “Well it’s good we’re going. We’re going back there,” Mnuchin told reporters.
Mnuchin expresses optimism and says it is a good omen that China has invited them to Shanghai. “I think, as you know we’re going to Shanghai at their request,” said Mnuchin.
Shanghai is where the U.S. and China released an important diplomatic document—called the 1972 Shanghai Communiqué—that normalized Sino-U.S. relations during President Nixon’s administration.
“There’s some symbolic importance to them of the Shanghai Communiqué with Kissinger,” said Mnuchin who added, “So, I take that as an important step that they really are sincere in wanting to move forward.”
Mnuchin says the resumed talk is important to the U.S. “They’re back in the markets buying agriculture. They’ve made those commitments to us. We want to see those commitments fulfilled,” said Mnuchin.
The treasury secretary is, however, pragmatic in his expectations. “I wouldn’t expect we’ll resolve all the issues,” said Mnuchin, who continued, “But the fact that we’re back at the table at the direction of the two presidents is important.”
Mnuchin stated that the Trump administration had the expectation coming from the G20 that trade talks would resume.
At the G20 Osaka summit last month, President Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping spoke briefly. The leaders of the two largest world economies agreed to resume the stalled trade talks, after President Trump said he would not impose new tariffs. Xi responded stating that China would consider making agricultural products.
Mnuchin said that they had two calls, which “are important but really there’re no substitute for in-person” negotiations. “China came here last time,” said Mnuchin and “so it was our turn to go back.
“You know my expectation is there’ll be a follow-up meeting back here shortly thereafter assuming things go as we expect them to be.”
He refrained from commenting on the different issues, apart from saying, “we have a lot of issues … a long list of topics” to discuss.
The White House later stated that next week’s Shanghai meeting will cover a range of topics, including intellectual property, forced technology transfers, non-tariff barriers, agriculture, and the U.S.-China trade deficit.
Mnuchin played down the prospect of a quick agreement with China. “My expectation is there’ll be a few more meetings before we get a deal done,” said Mnuchin during the press conference.
He stated that he expects more consultations before any deal is finalized and that the next meeting venue will probably be in Washington.