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December 10, 2018

US sets “hard deadline” for China trade deal

A US official has said 1 March is the deadline by which new tariffs will be imposed unless US-China trade conclude successfully by then.

By Olly Wehring

A US official has said 1 March is the deadline by which new tariffs will be imposed unless US-China trade conclude successfully by then.

US trade representative Robert Lighthizer clarified at the weekend there was a "hard deadline" after a week of seeming confusion among President Donald Trump and his advisers, Reuters reported.

Global markets on Monday reflected they are jittery about the row between the world's two largest economic powers over China's huge trade surplus – reportedly a record in November – with the US and China is stealing intellectual property and technology.

"As far as I am concerned it is a hard deadline. When I talk to the president of the United States he is not talking about going beyond March," Lighthizer said on the CBS show Face the Nation, referring to Trump's recent decision to delay new tariffs while talks proceed, Reuters reported.

"The way this is set up is that at the end of 90 days, these tariffs will be raised," added Lighthizer who will lead the talks and appeared to dampen expectations the negotiation period could be extended.

After a turbulent week in markets, investors "can be reassured that if there is a deal that can be made that will assure the protection of US technology…and get additional market access…the president wants us to do it," Lighthizer said. "If not we will have tariffs."

In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told Reuters both countries' economic and trade teams were "intensifying contacts and consultations", when asked if China was sending a trade negotiation delegation to the US this week.

"We hope both can earnestly, with joint efforts, put into effect the consensus reached by the two countries' leaders at the Argentina meeting," he told a daily news briefing.

The arrest of a top executive at China's Huawei Technologies has roiled global markets amid fears that it could further inflame the China-US trade row, Reuters noted. In Beijing on Sunday, China's foreign ministry protested the arrest to the US ambassador.

In a series of appearances on the US Sunday morning talk shows, Lighthizer, economic adviser Larry Kudlow and trade adviser Peter Navarro insisted the trade talks with China would not be derailed by the arrest, which they deemed solely a law enforcement matter.

Lighthizer, in his first comments since being appointed to lead the negotiations, said the US would need concessions across a number of areas in coming weeks if the higher tariffs are to be avoided.

That includes demands for increased purchases of US goods in a more open Chinese market, as well as "structural changes" to a system which, for example, forces American firms to turn over technology to Chinese partners as a condition of doing business. Slideshow (2 Images)

"We need agricultural sales and we need manufacturing sales. We need structural changes on this fundamental issue of non-economic technology transfer," Lighthizer said, according to Reuters.

The demands are similar to those made under previous Democratic and Republican presidents but Lighthizer said he felt Trump's willingness to go beyond "dialogue" and impose tariffs would produce results, the report added. 

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