WASHINGTON — The White House is ramping up pressure to reach a trade deal with China in the next two weeks, warning that the U.S. is prepared to walk away from the negotiations.
“It won’t go on forever,” Mick Mulvaney, President Donald Trump’s acting chief of staff, said Tuesday at an event in Los Angeles. “At some point in any negotiation you go, ‘We’re close to getting something done so we’re going to keep going.’ On the other hand, at some point you throw up your hands and say, ‘This is never going anywhere.'”
“You’ll know one way or the other in the next couple of weeks,” Mulvaney said, speaking at the Milken Institute Global Conference. There’s no “fever” on the part of the White House to finalize an accord, he added.
After four months of intense negotiations, the Trump administration is making its impatience known, in a shift from mostly optimistic messaging about the prospect of a deal to end their trade war that’s resulted in tariffs on $360 billion of each other’s goods. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are in Beijing this week for the latest round of talks, with Vice Premier Liu He expected to visit Washington next week.
Mnuchin has said that there’s a strong desire from both sides to wrap up the talks or move on. Following the next two rounds, U.S. officials hope to “either recommend to the president we have a deal or make a recommendation that we don’t,” Mnuchin said in a taped interview broadcast Monday on the Fox program “Mornings with Maria.”
A collapse of negotiations might reverse momentum in the world’s two-largest economies, dousing hopes that the world economy might be able to shake off trade-war risks. The conflict has weighed on confidence and dented shipments, with nine of the 10 gauges tracked by Bloomberg to assess the health of global trade below their average midpoint.
(With assistance from Justin Sink and Sonali Basak.)
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