Exclusive: U.S.-China Trade Deal Might Not Be Ready for Signing in Chile – U.S. Official

Kevin Lamarque/File Photo/Reuters

An interim trade agreement between the United States and China might not be completed in time for signing in Chile next month as expected but this does not mean that the accord is falling apart, a U.S. administration official said on Tuesday.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping were expected to sign “phase one” of the agreement at next month’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Chile, but the date is still fluid.

“If it’s not signed in Chile, that doesn’t mean that it falls apart. It just means that it’s not ready,” the administration official said. “Our goal is to sign it in Chile. But sometimes texts aren’t ready. But good progress is being made and we expect to sign the agreement in Chile.”

Trump, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow have all said good progress is being made on the deal after a nearly 16-month trade war, while also noting that it would be fine if the deal was not finalized by the APEC summit.

U.S. stocks turned negative after Reuters reported the administration official’s comments, as investors bet the closely-watched trade talks were further away from resolution.

The South China Morning Post, citing a person briefed on the arrangements, reported Tuesday that the leaders of the world’s two largest economies were tentatively slated to sign the interim trade deal on Nov. 17 “if everything goes smoothly”.

But the comments from the Trump administration official raised the possibility that the “phase one” agreement might not be finalized in time for the APEC gathering.

Trump on Monday said he hoped to sign a significant part of a trade deal with China at the summit, but did not elaborate on the timing.

One U.S.-based source familiar with the plans confirmed Nov. 17 was the likely date for the meeting.

However, an administration official noted that Trump had said he would “probably” sign the agreement in Chile.

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Andrea Shalal; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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