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March 4, 2019

U.S. Trade Representative: Still A Lot Of Work On China Deal

While there were no further public discussions last week between the United States and China regarding a potential trade deal, in a sign that negotiations are still on track, on Feb. 28, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative formally gave notice that it has delayed pending tariff increases on Chinese products. (As Connecting the Dots reported last week, President Donald Trump announced that, based on progress in trade discussions with China, he wouldn’t raise tariffs from 10 percent to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.)

That notice did not specify any particular date on which the tariffs may increase.

Over the weekend, Bloomberg reported the two countries are “near” to a deal and that Chinese officials have offered to lower tariffs on U.S. farm, chemical, auto, and other products as part of a deal.

Earlier in the week, however, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer discussed the potential deal with China in testimony before the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee and seemed to suggest a deal is still somewhat far away. In his opening statement, Lighthizer said that, while progress has been made, “considerable work” remains before an agreement can be signed. While lawmakers will not be required to approve the deal – since it reportedly will come in the form of a memorandum of understanding – Lighthizer also said the Trump administration would need to work with Congress to ensure the Chinese government lives up to commitments made in any deal, listing “strong enforcement measures” as his top overall priority.

Based on last week’s testimony, it also does appear that the two countries have made progress on currency issues. Lighthizer said negotiators “have spent a lot of time on currency and it’ll be enforceable.” Stay tuned to Connecting the Dots for more on this story as it develops.