Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expressed confidence on Wednesday in the progress of trade talks with China and said he and a U.S. delegation are heading to China next week with the intent to make a deal before a March deadline.
“We are committed to continue these talks,” Mnuchin said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “We’re putting in an enormous amount of effort to hit this deadline and get a deal. That’s our objective.”
Mnuchin said the administration had “very productive meetings” with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He.
The White House has set a March 2 deadline to iron out myriad issues with Chinese over trade.
In particular, the administration is looking for concessions on the ability of U.S. companies to sell in China, to stop the theft of intellectual property and other structural issues.
A tit-for-tat trade war last year saw the U.S. slap a barrage of tariffs on Chinese imports, prompting retaliation against a list of American goods. The sides suspended the tariffs in hopes of working out a long-range deal. President Donald Trump recently said he expects “a very big deal” to happen soon on trade.
“We are trying to reach a comprehensive agreement on a long range of issues,” Mnuchin told CNBC. “The good news is we have been talking about these issues over the last year.”
Mnuchin will be part of a delegation that heads to Beijing in hopes of resolving the remaining issues. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is expected to lead the negotiations with help from Mnuchin and other administration officials.
J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said at the World Economic Forum in Davos two weeks ago that he expects at the least an extension of the tariff deadline as negotiations progress.
“I don’t think it would be productive to speculate on the outlook, because we have a lot of work left to do,” Mnuchin told CNBC.
“There are a wide range of issue we’re working on around the clock,” he added. “If we can’t get to the deadline, it’s not because we haven’t been working around the clock.”
Mnuchin also described the U.S. economy as “still very strong” and said a meeting this week between Trump and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell was “quite productive.”