US, China 'close' on some parts of trade deal

The U.S. and China are “close to finalizing” the first phase of a trade agreement after high-level officials spoke over the phone Friday, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced. 

U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerPelosi sounds hopeful on new NAFTA deal despite tensions with White House On The Money: Economy adds 164K jobs in July | Trump signs two-year budget deal, but border showdown looms | US, EU strike deal on beef exports Chinese, US negotiators fine-tuning details of trade agreement: report MORE and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinNew book questions Harris's record on big banks On The Money: US paid record .1B in tariffs in September | Dems ramp up oversight of 'opportunity zones' | Judge hints at letting House lawsuit over Trump tax returns proceed Democrats ramp up oversight efforts over 'opportunity zone' incentive MORE spoke with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He on Friday to discuss the first phase of a plan to end a bitter trade war between Washington and Beijing. The first phase of the deal would postpone an upcoming increase of tariffs on Chinese goods in exchange for Beijing drastically increasing imports of American crops.

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“They made headway on specific issues and the two sides are close to finalizing some sections of the agreement. Discussions will go on continuously at the deputy level, and the principals will have another call in the near future,” Lighthizer's office said in a statement. 

The two sides are working to finalize language regarding the first phase of the deal, with both sides hoping President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump faces high stakes in meeting with Erdoğan amid impeachment drama Democrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Trump threatening to fire Mulvaney: report MORE and Chinese President Xi Jinping can officially sign it at a summit next month in Chile.

China is still urging the U.S. to cancel additional tariffs on Chinese imports, people briefed on the Friday call told Reuters, while Washington is seeking a pledge that Beijing will ramp up purchases of U.S. agricultural goods such as soybeans.

China has already started increasing its purchases of agricultural goods. It issued waivers for 10 million tons of soybean purchases this week and is reportedly mulling approving an additional 4 million to 5 million tons of grains, including wheat, corn and sorghum.

Trump has been quick to tout the potential deal as a victory for farmers as negotiations continue. 

“The deal I just made with China is, by far, the greatest and biggest deal ever made for our Great Patriot Farmers in the history of our Country. In fact, there is a question as to whether or not this much product can be produced? Our farmers will figure it out. Thank you China!” he tweeted earlier this month.

However, observers have cautioned that China has previously retreated from similar promises of agricultural purchases in the past and that mistrust will linger even if a deal is signed. 

“The Chinese don’t want Xi to move forward with this initial phase or this initial detente if they don’t get rid of the December tariff threat as well,” Stephen Myrow, managing partner at Beacon Policy Advisors, told The Hill this month. “No matter what they sign, they don’t really trust Trump.”