Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is set to visit Washington on Jan. 30-31 for further trade talks, according to people familiar with the plans, signaling progress in efforts to tamp down the dispute.
Liu would meet with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, according to the people, who declined to be named because the details haven’t been made public. The visit’s timing could still change, one of the people said. The Wall Street Journal reported the dates earlier.
Mnuchin had flagged the trip to reporters on Thursday in Washington, saying that “the current intent” is for Liu to visit later in the month and that he doesn’t expect the partial government shutdown to interfere with those plans.
Liu is a key economic adviser to President Xi Jinping and is in charge of the talks with the U.S. This would be his second trip to Washington to talk trade, after he had appeared to reach an agreement with the U.S. in May, only for Trump to back away from it.
Negotiators from both the U.S. and China expressed optimism after mid-level talks wrapped up in Beijing this week, bolstering sentiment across global markets. Liu made a surprise appearance at the first day of those talks.
The history of the negotiations
However, neither side has give any detail as to what was agreed at the meetings. There are about seven weeks before the U.S.-imposed deadline for a deal, after which President Donald Trump may order a resumption of tariff hikes.
The economic damage to China from the dispute is becoming clearer, with exports of tariffed goods to the U.S. slumping in the fourth quarter of last year. And while China has resumed purchases of some U.S. products such as soybeans and cut tariffs on U.S. car exports temporarily, that could stop if no deal is made.
Trump is also increasingly eager to strike a deal with China soon in an effort to perk up financial markets that have slumped on concerns over the trade war, according to people familiar with internal White House deliberations.
China and the U.S. will move ahead with the trade talks as scheduled, Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng told reporters in Beijing at a regular weekly briefing on Thursday. He didn’t give any further details about when they would take place.