US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says a US-China trade agreement would go “way beyond” previous efforts to open China’s markets to US companies and hoped the two sides were “close to the final round” of negotiations.
Mr Mnuchin, speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank spring meetings, said he and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer would hold two calls next week with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He.
The officials also were discussing whether more in-person meetings were necessary to conclude an agreement.
“I think we’re hopeful that we’re getting close to the final round of concluding issues,” Mr Mnuchin said Saturday (local time).
Beijing and Washington are seeking a deal to end a bitter trade war marked by tit-for-tat tariffs that have cost the world’s two largest economies billions of dollars, disrupted supply chains and rattled financial markets.
Among the issues under discussion are US demands that China open more sectors of its economy to foreign and US firms.
Asked whether such an opening would go beyond what was contemplated in the 2016 Bilateral Investment Treaty negotiations, he replied: “We are making progress, I want to be careful”.
“This is not a public negotiation … this is a very, very detailed agreement covering issues that have never been dealt with before,” Mr Mnuchin said.
“This is way beyond anything that looked like a bilateral investment treaty.
The BIT talks, pursued by former president Barack Obama’s administration, stalled as China refused to satisfy US demands to open significant sectors of its economy to foreign investment.
The talks were not taken up by the Trump administration, which pursued tariffs on Chinese goods instead, leading to the current talks.
Mr Mnuchin called the agreement under negotiation “the most significant change in the trading relationship in 40 years”, adding that it would have “real enforcement on both sides”.