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US trade rep says US-China trade truce has ‘hard deadline’

This article is more than 12 months old

WASHINGTON: US-China trade negotiations need to reach a successful end by March 1 or new tariffs will be imposed, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Sunday, clarifying that there is a "hard deadline".

Global markets are jittery about a collision between the world's two largest economic powers over China's huge trade surplus with the US and claims that China is stealing US intellectual property and technology.

"As far as I am concerned it is a hard deadline. When I talk to the president of the United States he is not talking about going beyond March," Mr Lighthizer said on CBS, referring to US President Donald Trump's decision to delay new tariffs while talks proceed.

"The way this is set up is that at the end of 90 days, these tariffs will be raised," said Mr Lighthizer, who has been tapped to lead the talks.

After a turbulent week in markets, investors "can be reassured that if there is a deal that can be made that will assure the protection of US technology... and get additional market access... the President wants us to do it," Mr Lighthizer said.

"If not we will have tariffs."

In Argentina recently, Mr Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to a truce that delayed the planned Jan 1 US hike of tariffs to 25 per cent from 10 per cent on US$200 billion (S$270 billion) of Chinese goods while they negotiate a trade deal.

However, the arrest of a top executive at China's Huawei's has roiled global markets amid fears that it could further inflame the China-US trade row. In Beijing on Sunday, China's foreign ministry protested against the arrest to the US ambassador.

In a series of appearances on the Sunday morning talk shows, Mr Lighthizer, economic adviser Larry Kudlow, and trade adviser Peter Navarro insisted the trade talks with China would not be derailed by the arrest, which they deemed solely a law enforcement matter. - REUTERS

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