By Shawn Donnan
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said negotiations over the first phase of a trade agreement with China were coming down to the final stages, with the two sides in close, regular contact including a call planned for Friday.
Speaking after an event at the Council on Foreign Relations late Thursday in Washington, Kudlow told reporters that a deal was close though “not done yet.” President Donald Trump’s top trade advisers met on Thursday evening to discuss the China talks, said Kudlow, who heads Trump’s National Economic Council.
“We are coming down to the short strokes,” Kudlow said. “We are in communication with them every single day right now.”
Speaking on Fox Business Network on Friday, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross confirmed the two sides are talking today. He said there will be a deal “in all likelihood,” adding that “the devil is always in the details and we’re down to the last details now.”
The two sides have held working-level video conferences in recent days focused on issues ranging from the details and time line of Chinese purchases of U.S. agricultural goods such as pork and soybeans to commitments to curtail theft of intellectual property that Trump is demanding from China, according to people familiar with the discussions.
A U.S. demand that China spell out how it plans to reach as much as $50 billion in agricultural imports annually has been one sticking point as have discussions over what action the U.S. will take to roll back tariffs in return for a phase one deal, people familiar said. China has reiterated its position that removing existing tariffs is a precondition of reaching a deal.
Still, both sides have sent signals that they are intent on an agreement. China has resumed significant purchases of U.S. farm exports since Trump first announced plans for the phase one deal Oct. 11. On Thursday, Beijing also lifted a ban on American poultry that began in 2015, after the U.S. Department of Agriculture made a similar decision to allow Chinese poultry into the U.S.
“This is great news for both America’s farmers and China’s consumers,” Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative leading the discussions with China, said in a statement after the lifting of the Chinese ban was announced. The government estimates American producers will be able to export more than $1 billion worth of poultry to China annually, he said.
Separately, Kudlow said the president had not yet made a decision on whether to impose -- or delay, as many expect -- new auto tariffs on imported cars and parts from the European Union. The president received a report from Lighthizer’s office and “he is considering it”, Kudlow said.