Trump Says Trade Deal ‘Could Very Well Happen’ With China

January 20, 2019 Updated: January 21, 2019

President Donald Trump said there has been progress toward a trade deal with China, but denied that he was considering lifting tariffs on Chinese imports.

“Things are going very well with China and with trade,” he told reporters Jan. 19 at the White House, adding that he had seen some “false reports” indicating that U.S. tariffs on Chinese products would be lifted.

“If we make a deal, certainly, we would not have sanctions, and if we don’t make a deal we will,” Trump said. “We’ve really had a very extraordinary number of meetings and a deal could very well happen with China. It’s going well. I would say about as well as it could possibly go.”

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will visit the United States on Jan. 30-31 for the next round of trade negotiations with Washington.

That follows lower-level negotiations held in Beijing earlier this month toward resolving the bitter dispute between the world’s two largest economies by March 2, when the Trump administration is scheduled to increase tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.

According to sources briefed on the ongoing negotiations, cited exclusively by Reuters on Jan 18., the United States is pushing for regular reviews of China’s progress on pledged trade reforms as a condition for a trade deal—and could again resort to tariffs if it deems Beijing has violated the agreement.

“The threat of tariffs is not going away, even if there is a deal,” said one of three sources briefed on the talks, who spoke with Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Chinese negotiators weren’t keen on the idea of regular compliance checks, the source said, but the U.S. proposal “didn’t derail negotiations.”

A Chinese source said the United States wants “periodic assessments” but it isn’t yet clear how often.

White House adviser Larry Kudlow also said Jan. 18 that progress was being made.

“We’re making progress in negotiating on the grandest scale between the two countries ever,” Kudlow told reporters at the White House.

“We’re covering everything: technology theft, IP, forced transfers, family jewels, cyber intervention, commodities, industrial supplies, financial services, ownership—nothing like this has ever been undertaken. The president has led this, he’s fought this, the unfairness, the lack of reciprocity.”

According to Bloomberg, China has offered to go on a six-year buying spree to ramp up imports from the United States, by a combined value of more than $1 trillion. China would seek to reduce its trade surplus—which last year stood at $323 billion—to zero by 2024.

U.S. markets rallied on Jan. 18 after the news of possible trade deal with China came out. The Dow jumped 336 points, or 1.3 percent, the S&P 500 climbed 1.3 percent, while the Nasdaq rose 1 percent. All three major indexes surged almost 3 percent for on the week.

After the first round of trade talks between the United States and China this year, The Epoch Times reported that Beijing has shown signs of willingness to make concessions due to its worsening economic conditions.

Recent economic indicators continue to show bad signs. Analysts are predicting that China’s 2018 GDP will hit a 28-year low.

A five-minute video of an internal meeting of high-ranking Chinese officials in Liaoning Province was leaked and widely circulated on the internet recently.

In the video, Wang Baosheng, member of the Political Consultative Conference of Shenyang City, said, “Right now, the entire economy is going down. Desperate wails can be heard everywhere in all industries. Now, I don’t hear members of the Political Consultative Conference boasting about they have earned 50 million, or 800 million [as before]. Nobody is saying that this year. Instead, everybody walks with a lowered head, fearing that people will ask them about how much money they have earned.”

Wang said, “I can responsibly tell everyone that in 2018, all I gained is my age. I haven’t gained any wealth. However much was invested, however much was lost.”

At a meeting of the State Council of China on Jan. 14, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang admitted that pressure from the economic downturn is mounting, and said that China needs to bear up against the pressure.

With the economic downturn, new waves of unemployment are hitting the job market. Recently Apple’s biggest iPhone assembler, Foxconn Technology Group, let go around 50,000 contract workers in Zhengzhou City in east-central China. Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has postponed its recruitment program.

Gavekal Dragonomics’ China Consumer Analyst Ernan Cui pointed out in a Jan. 9 report that an official survey covering 374,000 large industrial firms shows total employment declined by about 2.8 million people in the 12 months through November 2018.

Reuters contributed to this report.