If Trump and Xi meet, presume deal is reached: Ex-U.S. trade official

China dispatching a delegation for trade talks with U.S. officials is a “good sign” that the two nations are making progress, former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told CNBC on Thursday.

It would be more promising if the countries’ leaders agree to meet about a truce, Kirk said.

As authorities hold meetings this week in Washington, D.C., to hammer out differences, President Donald Trump suggested in a

Thursday morning that he could meet with President Xi Jinping of China in the future.

“Unfortunately … this president loves to sort of make a grand pronouncement, whether there is an agreement or not,” he said on “Power Lunch.” “But if the two leaders were going to meet, at least in past administrations, the presumption is that some deal would have been worked out for the leaders to meet and formally embrace.”

Kirk served as trade representative for nearly four years under the Obama administration.

“I do think it is a good sign that China sent a delegation” led by Vice Premier Liu He “and I’m told that it is a full delegation of leaders with the authority to make some very tough decisions, but we’ll have to see what comes out of it,” he said.

In a press gaggle later Thursday, Trump indicated he would be open to extending the 90-day truce beyond the March deadline. Pressures are growing on both sides to sign a deal as markets worry about global economic slowdown.

Trump later met with Liu to discuss issues including technology transfers, agriculture, services and enforcement. Afterward, reporters were invited to the Oval Office, where Liu announced that China would start buying 5 million tons of soybeans a day.

“That’s going to make our farmers very happy,” Trump said.

“That’s a very big order,” he added.

In the first two weeks of 2019, U.S. soybean exports to China tanked 37 percent year over year. China, the world’s largest soybean buyer, put a 25 percent tariff on the crop last year.

Trump plans to raise tariffs from 10 percent to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods if a deal is not made by a March 2 deadline. Both countries have already slapped tariffs on billions of dollars worth of products, with Beijing targeting industries including steel, aluminum and agriculture.

“I think you can see all of us, no matter whether we agree with the president’s strategy or disagree with it, are hopeful that these talks will be productive and that we can back away from this war that’s hurting both of our economies,” Kirk said.


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