White House expecting agreement with China 'within next week or so'

Trade adviser Peter Navarro suggests little more than translation of text is needed

The White House has signalled that a trade agreement with China could come within the next week, amid speculation that a delegation from Beijing will travel to the US this weekend to sign a deal.

Peter Navarro, the White House’s trade adviser, said he expected a deal could be signed “within the next week or so”. Speaking on Fox News, he indicated that little more than translation of the final text stood in the way of a breakthrough in the bitter dispute.

In response to a report in the South China Morning Post that Washington had invited the Chinese vice-premier Liu He to visit the US capital from Saturday to sign the deal, Navarro said: “We’ll probably have a signing on that within the next week or so – we’re just waiting for the translation.” However, he stressed that the report had come from anonymous sources. The South China Morning Post said the Chinese delegation would stay in the US for “a few days”, until the middle of next week.

“Never believe reports on anonymous sources. Get it from President Trump or … [the US trade representative] ” Navarro said. But he added that the signing of the agreement would be made public as quickly as possible and indicated few steps remained to complete it.

“Basically you need to get it translated into the Chinese and double-checked so both versions match,” he said.

The prospect of an agreement has sent stock markets to record levels over the festive period and prompted the International Monetary Fund to say that a deal easing trade tensions between the world’s two major economic superpowers could persuade its officials to revise up forecasts for global growth in 2020.

In a bitter dispute that has weighed on the world economy, both the US and China have imposed tariffs on one another’s goods, depressing global trade volumes and leading to weaker levels of business investment. Over the course of the dispute, the US has imposed tariffs – a tax paid by importers – on about $360bn (£274bn) worth of Chinese goods including electronics, clothing and toys. Beijing has hit back with tariffs on more than $110bn of US products including soya beans and aircraft.

Neither side has released specific details of the agreement and no text has been released. But Navarro said the deal included agreements on the protection of companies’ intellectual property, “a good start” on forced technology transfers – where US companies are required to hand over valuable technological secrets as part of partnerships with Chinese businesses – and “some good language on currency manipulation”.

Lighthizer had said this month that officials from the US and China would sign the phase one trade deal “in the first week of January”, though neither Washington or Beijing has confirmed the date of any agreement.

Donald Trump said last week that he and the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, would have a signing ceremony for the agreement.Economists expect that the US will cut tariffs on Chinese goods in exchange for greater access to the Chinese market for American agricultural products.

It also comes after Beijing announced a cut in tariffs on more than 850 goods from 1 January in order to boost its flagging economy, including cuts on duties on products ranging from frozen pork to semiconductors.

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After rallying over the Christmas period, stocks fell back slightly on Monday under selling pressure as investors took the opportunity to cash in on the gains. The FTSE 100 closed down almost 60 points at 7,587, while shares also fell across Europe and in New York.

Fiona Cincotta of the financial trading firm City Index said: “After an impressive 11 consecutive winning sessions the FTSE was on the back foot heading towards the close.

“With Wall Street starting in the red, a stronger pound and little for traders to grab on to in the sluggish seasonal trading period, profit-taking was the order of the day.”

Contributor

Richard Partington Economics correspondent

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