Chile’s Apec cancellation a new hurdle for US-China trade deal
Trump and Xi had been scheduled to sign phase one of trade agreement on sidelines of summit
WASHINGTON/BEIJING : Leaders from the United States and China encountered a new obstacle in their struggle to end a damaging trade war on Wednesday, when the summit where they were supposed to meet was cancelled because of violent protests.
US President Donald Trump said this week he hoped to sign an interim trade deal with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during the Nov 16 to 17 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Chile.
Chilean officials said they cancelled the summit to focus on restoring law and order in the country.
The White House said afterwards the US still expects to sign an initial trade agreement with China next month, but no alternate location had yet been set for Mr Xi and Mr Trump to meet.
"We look forward to finalising Phase One of the historic trade deal with China within the same time frame," the White House said in a statement that omitted a mention of President Trump or his planned meeting with Mr Xi.
China's Commerce Ministry said in a statement yesterday the bilateral talks will continue to proceed as previously planned and the lead trade negotiators from both countries will speak by telephone today.
US and Chinese negotiators have been racing to finalise a text of the "phase one" agreement, a process clouded by wrangling over US demands for a timetable of Chinese purchases of US farm products.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who was travelling in the Middle East, told Reuters on Wednesday that US discussions with China had been productive and work on finalising the text of the deal was continuing. China's Commerce Ministry also said yesterday the negotiations were progressing well.
The White House intends to offer some US locations as alternatives for the Apec summit, according to one source familiar with US thinking.
Alaska and Hawaii could be potential options that would be acceptable to China, said a second source familiar with the issue. China has also suggested Macau as a possible venue, according to one China trade source familiar with the issue.
LOTS OF OPTIONS
The White House had no immediate comment on alternative locations, and the Chinese Commerce Ministry's statement did not say whether Mr Trump and Mr Xi would still meet next month. But trade experts said arranging another summit at short notice would be tough.
"These summits - especially one involving 21 leaders - are a massive undertaking, and moving one with two weeks' notice is all but impossible," said Mr Matthew Goodman, a former National Security Council official and adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.
The White House is "clearly signalling that it really wants the Trump-Xi bilateral to go ahead," Mr Goodman said.
"But it seems more likely that they'll have trade ministers or ambassadors sign the 'phase one' deal and save the leaders' meeting for later."
Even though this is a phased agreement, it will not be rushed, said a Chinese official with knowledge of the matter.
"Consultations should happen one step at a time," the official said, requesting anonymity.- REUTERS