Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Friday that a U.S. delegation concluded trade talks with top Chinese officials, but did not announce a deal resolving the two countries’ long-running dispute.
“They were constructive discussions between both parties, that’s all we are going to say. Thank you,” Mnuchin told reporters outside the U.S. trade representative’s offices in downtown Washington.
The Treasury chief, who has helped lead the months-long trade negotiations, spoke after Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and his team departed the offices after about two hours of meetings.
Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer were later seen walking into the West Wing of the White House.
The next steps in the fraught negotiations are unclear.
President Trump earlier Friday defended his administration’s decision to increase tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods from 10 percent to 25 percent, a signal to Beijing he won’t budge from his demands.
In a series of tweets, Trump said there is “no need to rush” a trade deal with China and touted what he sees as the economic benefits of the increased tariffs that went into effect just after midnight.
“Tariffs will bring in FAR MORE wealth to our Country than even a phenomenal deal of the traditional kind. Also, much easier & quicker to do,” Trump wrote, adding in a separate message that “China should not renegotiate deals with the U.S. at the last minute.”
U.S. officials have accused China of pulling back from prior commitments to change laws to address the Trump administration’s core complaints about the trading relationship, including intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers.
China has denied reneging on its promises and has pledged to respond with “countermeasures” against the increased U.S. tariffs.
The trade tensions have rattled financial markets and irked some of the president’s Republican allies in Congress, who are also worried about the uncertainty surrounding Trump’s revision of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.
“The announcement from the White House that talks with China have fallen apart is not good news for American consumers,” GOP Sen. James Lankford (Okla.) said in a statement, adding that the increased tariffs on Chinese goods will “continue to harm American workers, American consumers, and American companies.”
“The U.S. must find a path with China that opens up trade, not discourages it,” Lankford said.
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