US-China trade deal is closer but we’re watching Hong Kong, Donald Trump says
- Talks on phase one deal ‘in final throes’ after phone conversation between China’s Liu He and US’ Robert Lighthizer and Steven Mnuchin
- ‘But we want to see it go well in Hong Kong,’ US president says
His comments on Tuesday came hours after a phone conversation between Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He and the United States’ Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Trump said he expected Chinese President Xi Jinping to ensure a positive outcome for Hong Kong, which has been gripped by unrest for almost six months. The city has emerged as an acute point of tension in US-China relations as they negotiate over the trade deal.
Trump did not indicate whether he would sign the democracy bill, but said he remained positive about a “phase one” trade deal, which the US announced last month was being pursued as an interim de-escalation mechanism. The agreement was expected to include further Chinese purchases of US agricultural goods and the cancellation of additional US tariffs that were due to take effect on December 15.
That deadline continued to hang over the talks after projections by both sides that an agreement could be reached by the end of November were disrupted by negotiating stumbling blocks, including which tariffs would be removed.
Trump addressed the delays during an interview for the website of former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly on Tuesday, saying that ensuring a good deal for the US was vital.
“I’m holding it up because it’s got to be a good deal,” he said. “We can’t make a deal that’s, like, even. We have to make a deal where we do much better, because we have to catch up.”
His comments were echoed on Tuesday by White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, who said that Trump wanted to “do this in phases, in interim pieces, because it’s such a large, historic trade deal”.
“The president wants a deal. But President Trump always waits for the best deal,” Conway told Fox News, saying that sticking points under discussion included forced technology transfer, the two countries’ trade imbalance and alleged intellectual property theft.
Additional reporting by Reuters and Bloomberg