President Donald Trump said on Nov. 26 that the United States and China are close to finalizing a phase one trade agreement.
“We are in the final throes of a very important deal, I guess you could say one of the most important deals in trade ever,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Nov. 26.
“It’s going very well, but at the same time we want to see it go well in Hong Kong,” he continued, adding that he believes Chinese leader Xi Jinping would “like to make it happen.”
The remarks was the second time in the past week that Trump had indicated public support for Hong Kong. Since June, the former British colony has been rocked by ongoing protests against growing Chinese regime encroachment on the city’s autonomy.
“We are with them,” Trump said, in response to a reporter’s question to provide a message to the people of Hong Kong who voted in support of the protesters in the city’s recent district elections.
On Monday, the pro-democracy camp in Hong Kong beat Pro-Beijing groups with a decisive victory, securing 388 seats out of 452, a result widely seen as a display of public support for the protest movement.
Earlier in the morning, White House advisor Kellyanne Conway said the two countries are getting close to a trade agreement while resolving the structural issues.
“We’re getting close and that first phase is significant,” Conway said in an interview with Fox News. “The President wants to do it in phases, in interim pieces because it is a large historic trade deal.”
The phase one deal will work out expectations on farm goods purchases from China and intellectual property protections. The Chinese regime has also called for tariff rollbacks as part of the deal.
“We continue to negotiate, but those forced tech transfers, the theft of intellectual property, the trade imbalance of a half a trillion a year with the world’s second largest economy, China—this makes no sense to people,” Conway said.
“The president wants a deal. But President Trump always waits for the best deal,” she continued, adding that they are already seeing some progress.
China has lifted a five-year ban on U.S. poultry products, which according to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Ligthizer, could open up $1 billion worth of export opportunities for U.S. poultry farmers.
On Nov. 24, China’s State Council also issued new guidelines to increase scrutiny on protection of patents, copyrights, and other intellectual property theft, which are among the sticking points in the trade tensions.
The Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property estimates that Chinese theft of U.S. trade intelligence cost the United States between $225 billion and $600 billion annually.
President Donald Trump has signaled optimism for the deal lately, but said that he was not ready to call the deal.
“I don’t think they’re stepping up to the level that I want,” he said on Nov. 21.
On Tuesday, top China and U.S. trade negotiators, including Lighthizer, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and China’s Vice Premier Liu He spoke by phone. Xinhua, the country’s state news agency, said the two sides have reached consensus on solving “each other’s core concerns” and will remain in close communication.