WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States was poised to announce a historic trade deal with China, days before new tariffs are due to kick in between the world’s two largest economies, easing a commercial dispute that has roiled markets for almost two years.
Reports that Washington and Beijing had struck a bargain at last -- subject to approval by US President Donald Trump - sent US stocks sailing to their first record closes of December.
“Getting Very close to a Big Deal with China. They want it, and so do we!” Trump tweeted in a markedly optimistic tone, although it was unclear if he would officially confirm the agreement.
Trump’s flagging of an imminent breakthrough comes ahead of new tariffs planned to take effect Sunday and also just as he is almost sure to become only the third US president to be impeached. With his 2020 re-election battle heating up Trump is keen to seize the political initiative and show voters his punishing struggle with China has brought results.
The US ultimately wants China to open its vast economy to more goods and to conduct sweeping reforms of what Washington has long called systemic abuse against foreign investors.
Recently, though, White House officials have indicated they would settle for less in a so-called “phase one” deal.
The Washington Post reported that Trump had signed off on a swap of tariff reductions in return for China spending US$ 50 billion on US farm goods, tightening its intellectual property protections and opening its financial services markets.
The paper cited Michael Pillsbury, a China expert at the Washington-based Hudson Institute it said had been briefed by Trump, and an unnamed senior administration official.
The paper reported that plans for an official announcement had not been nailed down, adding that the administration does not intend to seek congressional approval.
China’s commerce ministry said Thursday the two sides were in “close” contact ahead of Sunday’s deadline.