Kudlow suggests ministers could sign China deal instead of Trump, Xi

Kudlow suggests ministers could sign China deal instead of Trump, Xi
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal prosecutor speaks out, says Barr 'has brought shame' on Justice Dept. Former Pence aide: White House staffers discussed Trump refusing to leave office Progressive group buys domain name of Trump's No. 1 Supreme Court pick MORE and Chinese President Xi Jinping may not be the ones signing a potential initial trade agreement between the U.S. and China, the White House's top economic adviser, Larry KudlowLarry KudlowMORE, said Friday.

Trump last month announced an initial deal had been reached with China, though final details have proved more difficult to work out than he initially indicated.

Kudlow's suggestion that Trump and Xi may not sign the deal seemed to indicate that a final agreement may not end up being too significant.

Even when it was first announced, critics noted that it left many of the most significant and tricky issues untouched, leaving it to be negotiated by a potential "phase two" deal.

Speaking to reporters, Kudlow insisted that a minister-level signing — which he joked could be held in his own office — was not a sign for concern.

"Don't read much into it,"  he said.

Trump and Xi had floated an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Chile as the likely venue for signing the deal. The event was set to take place this weekend, but was canceled over political turmoil in Chile.

Kudlow also insisted there was progress on the negotiations, but refused to set a date or timeline and brushed away questions about the time it's taking to get to a signature of the deal.

"We never set a timeline. We hoped to get something done around APEC. APEC didn't happen," he said.

He also confirmed that a rollback of existing and scheduled tariffs was part of the discussions.

The U.S. has imposed tariffs on over $360 billion worth of annual Chinese imports, and China has retaliated with billions of tariffs targeted at U.S. exports, particularly in the agriculture sector.