The U.S. and China are still in intense negotiations to settle the trade dispute between the two nations, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told a Senate panel Tuesday.
“Our hope is we are in the final weeks but I’m not predicting one,” Lighthizer told the Senate Finance Committee.
Lighthizer seemed to push back against suggestions in the media that the talks had stalled. Recently, Fox Business News reported that Chinese leader Xi Jinping had canceled plans for an end of month summit with President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago. That report claimed Chinese officials were worried about being humiliated if President Trump broke off the talks at the last minute, as he had in talks with North Korea’s dictator in Vietnam last month.
Lighthizer said he talks daily with his Chinese counterpart.
Despite many repeated statements of optimism about a deal with China, Lighthizer and President Trump have also repeatedly said that it is possible talks will conclude with no agreement. Democrats have lately been warning Trump against going soft on China.
“We can’t predict success at this point but we are working hard,” Lighthizer said.
The two sides have exchanged tariffs on more than $360 billion in two-way trade, but Lighthizer on Tuesday declined to state publicly whether Washington would lift the tariffs it has so-far imposed if both sides reach a deal.
US officials are demanding far-reaching changes to Chinese industrial policy — including an end to massive state intervention in markets, subsidies and the alleged theft of American technology — and insist that any agreement be enforceable.
Lighthizer refused to say whether the United States planned to lift any existing tariffs as part of the current talks, but said Washington would reserve the right to impose them should China fail to keep up its end of the bargain.
“We have to maintain the right to be able to — whatever happens to the current tariffs — to raise tariffs in situations where there’s violations of the agreement,” he said. “That’s the core. If we don’t do that, then none of it makes any difference.”
–AFP contributed to this report.