Mnuchin Says ‘The Team is Unified’ in China Trade Negotiations

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, left, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross led a US team that reached consensus with China on trade
AFP

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday that the U.S. and China have “made very meaningful progress” in trade talks.

In an interview on CNBC Monday morning, Mnuchin said that the most recent round of trade talks between the two nations had concluded with a “very comprehensive framework that needs to be implemented.” He described the framework as one that would reduce trade gaps by increasing U.S. exports while also providing protection for U.S. companies from forced technology transfers.

“One aspect of it–which has been the president’s focus on cutting the trade deficit–and that’s by increasing exports significantly,” Mnuchin said. “But there are many other aspects. We talked about technology transfers, we talked about market reforms, we talked about them lowering tariffs, we talked about them opening up to U.S. companies.”

The Treasury secretary’s remarks come a day after he told Fox News that the U.S. was “putting the trade war on hold” and that both Beijing and the U.S. were temporarily suspending plans to implement tariffs.

On Monday, Mnuchin pushed back against the characterization of the situation as a “trade war.”

“This has been a trade dispute all along. It never was a trade war,” he said.

Mnuchin said that the Chinese have committed to increasing the amount of U.S. farm products they buy by 35 percent to 40 percent. He said the potential for the U.S. to supply energy to the Chinese market is “massive.”

Mnuchin denied that his position differs substantially from that of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who put out a statement on Sunday that some interpreted as much more hawkish than Mnuchin’s comments.  According to the Wall Street Journal, Mnuchin and Lighthizer took “markedly different positions” on Sunday.

“I think they got the story totally wrong,” Mnuchin said about the Wall Street Journal report. “Ambassador Lighthizer, Secretary Ross, and myself led all of the meetings. I probably spoke to Ambassador Lighthizer at least ten times a day outside of it. I looked at Ambassador Lighthizer’s statement before he put it out. It is completely consistent with the team’s approach. So Bob and I and Wilbur are all completely on the same page. The team is unified.”

The U.S. is close to completing the procedural steps necessary to apply tariffs on $150 billion of Chinese imports.  In effect, Mnuchin’s statement will put the implementation of those tariffs on hold until after the planned summit between President Trump and Korea’s Kim Jong Un in June.

U.S. trade negotiators are planning to head back to China to work out details of the framework agreement between the two nations reached during the most recent round of negotiations.

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