U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Tuesday that the United States and China are possibly nearing an agreement on a new trade deal, but stopped short of predicting a successful outcome of their lengthy negotiations.
“Our hope is that we are in the final weeks of having an agreement,” Lighthizer told the Senate Finance Committee. But he said there are still significant issues that need to be resolved.
“We can’t predict success at this point, but we are working hard,” he said.
He added the U.S. would insist that any new trade pact include enforcement provisions allowing Washington to reimpose tariffs if China violated terms of the agreement.
“We are going to have an enforceable agreement, or [President Donald Trump] won’t agree to the agreement,” Lighthizer said.
Trump said last Friday he was confident the U.S. could strike a deal with China, but added, “If this isn’t a great deal, I won’t make a deal.”
A new deal could possibly end hefty tariffs both countries have imposed on each other during the last eight months. The U.S. has taxed $250 billion of Chinese imports while China has imposed levies on about $110 billion of U.S. goods.
Lighthizer declined to say whether the U.S. would lift its tariffs if a deal is reached.
“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,” he said.
The U.S. is demanding wide changes to Chinese industrial policy, including an end to large-scale state intervention in markets, subsidies for various industries and the alleged theft of American technology.
Trump has said he would like to have a signing ceremony at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, but the White House said no date has been set.