November 25, 2019 / 5:44 AM / 13 days ago

China and U.S. moving closer to trade deal, but no agreement on tariff rollbacks: report

BEIJING/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China and the United States are “moving closer to agreeing” on a “phase one” trade deal, the Global Times, a tabloid run by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, reported on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO: Containers are seen at the Yangshan Deep Water Port in Shanghai, China August 6, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song

But the report noted that Washington and Beijing had not agreed on specifics or size of rollbacks of tariffs on Chinese goods. Beijing's insistence that Washington roll back the Trump administration's tariffs here has been a major sticking point.

U.S. president Donald Trump said Nov. 8 he had not yet agreed to roll back tariffs. He is expected to have the last word in the United States on terms of any “phase one” deal.

Beijing and Washington are "very close" to a phase one deal, the Global Times said on its Twitter feed here, citing experts close to the Chinese government. Beijing "remains committed to continuing talks for a phase two and even a phase three deal" the Tweet said. That information was not included in a report on the Global Times' website, which was much more cautious about the future of a deal.

“The two sides have basically reached broad consensus for the phase one agreement,” Gao Lingyun, an expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing who is close to the trade talks, told the Global Times.

Last week, the Chinese government invited United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to Beijing for face-to-face talks, the Wall Street Journal reported. Neither the USTR nor Treasury responded to a request for comment.

Completion of a phase one deal had been expected in November, but trade experts and people close to the White House said last week it could slide into the new year, as Beijing presses for more extensive tariff rollbacks and Washington counters with its own demands.

Washington and Beijing officials, lawmakers and trade experts say the ambitious “phase two” trade deal looks less likely.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang declined to comment specifically on the Global Times report during a daily press briefing but reiterated that Beijing would like Washington to work to resolve the outstanding issues.

The outlook was further complicated last week when the U.S. Congress approved legislation to back protesters in Hong Kong, although Sunday’s completion without major disruptions of district council elections in the Chinese-controlled territory could help.

On Saturday, U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said an initial trade deal with China was still possible by the end of the year. He said it would be “a good sign” if the Hong Kong elections took place without violence.

Reporting by Bhargav Acharya in Bengaluru, Tony Munroe and Gabriel Crossley in Beijing and Andrea Shalal in Washington; Editing by Tom Hogue, Shri Navaratnam, Toby Chopra, Heather Timmons and David Gregorio

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