US-China trade talks set for Saturday postponed, say reports

WASHINGTON (AFP) – High-level talks between Washington and Beijing on the status of the “phase one” trade agreement that were set to take place on Saturday have been postponed, according to US media reports on Friday (Aug 14).

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reportedly were scheduled to hold a video conference with China’s Vice-Premier Liu He, according to the reports citing people familiar with the issue.

The phase one deal called for officials to hold a “check in” every six months, but neither government had confirmed the meeting, and USTR and Treasury have not responded to repeated requests for comments on the status of the talks.

Officials held a call in early May on the deal.

The US and China signed the accord in January which represented a partial truce in their months-long trade war, and obligated Beijing to import an additional US$200 billion (S$275 billion) in American products over two years, ranging from cars to machinery to oil to farm products.

But that was before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and purchases of those goods have been lagging.

US President Donald Trump in recent weeks has stepped up rhetoric against China ahead of what’s expected to be a tough fight for a second term – with the election in November – raising questions about the deal’s fate as well as the possibility of a phase two agreement.

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