Trump (And Maybe Lighthizer) To Lead Trade Talks As President Praises "Leap Forward" In China Relationship

Update II: The tweet parade continues: President Trump tweeted that some day he hopes he, President Xi and President Putin will start talks on ending the "uncontrollable" arms race, which he said cost the US $716 billion this year.

Meanwhile, Mnuchin told reporters that the US is going to make sure that China isn't manipulating its currency (the Treasury declined to designate China as a currency manipulator two months back).

Offshore-traded Chinese yuan has moved higher since Friday, largely thanks to the trade truce.


In other comments from the Treasury Secretary, the Financial Times published a report Sunday morning that included comments reportedly made by Mnuchin during a telephone interview held shortly after the conclusion of the Trump-Xi meeting.

According to the FT, Mnuchin claimed that China will need to make concrete commitments if it hopes to avoid the next round of US tariffs and strike a lasting deal.

Using words echoed by Mnuchin during his CNBC interview on Monday, any US-China trade pact needs to be a "real agreement."

"There’s a 100 per cent unanimous view on our economic team that this needs to be a real agreement," Mr Mnuchin said. "These can’t be soft commitments from China. There need to be specific dates, specific action items," he added.

Fortunately, Xi came to the meeting with a list of "concrete" steps that China would be willing to take.

But the deal only came together once the presidents met face to face over a sirloin steak dinner at the Park Hyatt hotel the following night. "Xi laid out in great detail what they were willing to do," Mr Mnuchin said.

"This was the first time that the Chinese came back with a long, specific response to both the structural issues and the non-structural issues. The president made a decision on how to proceed," he added.

Still, as the FT noted, the tone of Mnuchin's comments suggested that there was some skepticism among US officials about China's willingness to follow through.

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Update: And the parade of tweets continues, with President Trump praising his "very strong and personal relationship" with Xi and claiming that "he and I are the only two people who can bring about massive and very positive change" on issues ranging from trade to North Korea.

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US stocks haven't even opened yet and we're already getting a stream of conflicting reports from Trump administration officials about the upcoming talks with China, as well as what was said during Trump's meeting with President Xi in Buenos Aires.

As President Trump continues to celebrate his weekend "trade truce", more details about the negotiations with China set to take place over the next 90 days are beginning to take shape. During an interview on NPR's "Morning Edition," White House Advisor Peter Navarro said US Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer will lead the US delegation during the upcoming talks with China.

Navarro also claimed that Chinese President Xi Jinping has offered responses to 142 US trade complaints, and that the two sides must now negotiate more equitable trade terms for both sides, or the US will move ahead with its 25% tariffs. Meanwhile, Trump continued his twitter "victory lap" by tweeting that the US's relationship with China has taken a "BIG leap forward!"

The president also emphasized that struggling US farmers will see immediate relief as China begins purchasing US agricultural products again.

However, as often happens with the Trump administration, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sent a conflicting signal on Monday morning during an interview with CNBC when he said that Trump would be leading the trade talks. He added that he hopes there will be a "real agreement" with China in the near future (as opposed to the "fake agreement" we have now?) Meanwhile, Mnuchin also said that lower auto tariffs was "discussed" during Trump's talk with Xi (this after Trump said earlier that Xi had agreed to lower the tariffs), in another interesting wrinkle, Mnuchin said Trump's talk with Xi was "very specific", which appears to contradict Trump's earlier tweet about lowering auto tariffs.