China Officials Optimistic for Trade Deal With US Following APEC Setback

October 31, 2019 Updated: October 31, 2019

SINGAPORE—Chinese officials voiced optimism that Beijing and Washington can find a way to clinch the so-called phase one trade deal next month, even as the summit where the heads of state were to meet to formally sign the deal was abruptly canceled.

China’s cabinet adviser Zhu Guangyao told Reuters on the sidelines of a forum in Singapore on China-U.S. relations that he’s still optimistic that a deal can be signed in November, if both sides maintain close communication via diplomatic channels.

“Based on (the principles of) mutual trust and mutual benefits, I believe both countries can achieve great success,” said Zhu, who was directly involved in the bilateral trade talks as a vice finance minister until his retirement in 2018.

In Beijing, China’s commerce ministry said bilateral trade negotiations with Washington will proceed according to plan and that the talks are progressing well.

The ministry, in a statement, said the two sides remain in close communication and that the lead trade negotiators will hold a telephone call on Nov. 1.

The cancellation of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Chile—announced as social unrest continued to rock Santiago—emerged as the latest twist in a 15-month-old trade dispute.

U.S. President Donald Trump said this week he hoped to sign an interim trade deal with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the APEC summit. The White House said the United States still expects to sign a deal with China next month, but no alternate location has been set yet.

Wei Jianguo, vice chairman of the Chinese state-backed think tank and forum co-host China Center for International Economic Exchange, told Reuters he believes the two countries can reach an agreement and the two leaders could meet and sign the deal on neutral soil.

“The cancellation of the Chile summit has zero impact on the trade deal between China and the U.S.,” said Wei. “There are lots of options out there for the two leaders to sign the deal. The deal can be signed in China, the U.S., or any third-party countries like Singapore.”

China will consider any offers from the United States as long as they don’t compromise Beijing’s core interests such as national security and territorial integrity, he said.

By Keith Zhai