Mnuchin Says US, China Phone Call Could Lead to In-person Talks

July 18, 2019 Updated: July 18, 2019

WASHINGTON—U.S. and Chinese officials will hold a telephone call later on July 18 that could pave the way for further in-person trade talks, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC.

Mnuchin, speaking from the G7 meeting in Chantilly, France, said he and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will participate in the call with their Chinese counterparts, adding that it follows an earlier discussion with their staffs.

“We’ll see where we get,” he said in an interview. “We continue to make progress. I would expect Ambassador Lighthizer and I to travel over there to have an in-person meeting.”

President Donald Trump reiterated his threat to impose further tariffs on Chinese imports.

“We have a long way to go as far as tariffs, where China is concerned, if we want. We have another $325 billion that we can put a tariff on if we want,” Trump said at a Cabinet meeting at the White House on Tuesday.

He and Chinese leader Xi Jinping had agreed last month to revive trade discussions after talks were fell apart in May.

“What they did was not appropriate,” Trump said on Tuesday. “They are supposed to be buying farm products. Let’s see whether or not they do.”

Asked about the role of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, which the administration has blacklisted over national security concerns, Mnuchin told CNBC said that allowing any U.S. sales to the Chinese telecoms equipment company was an issue independent from the trade talks.

He refuted a Wall Street Journal last week that said the Treasury chief was urging U.S. suppliers to seek exemptions to sell to Huawei now that the U.S. Department of Commerce has said it would allow some sales in cases where there is no threat.

“There are a lot of complicated issues … We have made progress, we’re trying to get back on the path of a lot of progress,” Mnuchin told CNBC.

By Susan Heavey

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