U.S., China differ over plans for Phase 1 trade deal talks

China's Ministry of Commerce spokesperson Gao Feng attends a news conference at the commerce ministry in Beijing

By David Lawder and Yawen Chen

BEIJING/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration on Thursday declined to acknowledge any plans to meet with China over the Phase 1 trade deal after the commerce ministry in Beijing said bilateral talks would be held “in the coming days” to evaluate the agreement’s progress.

Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng made the comments about the forthcoming discussions at a weekly briefing held online, but did not elaborate.

The videoconference meeting, originally envisioned for the Aug. 15 six-month anniversary of the trade deal’s launch, had been delayed, and U.S. President Donald Trump said it was his decision.

Two U.S. sources familiar with the plans said on Thursday no new meeting date has been scheduled.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s office and U.S. Treasury did not respond to queries about plans to review the trade deal, a regular six-month review by high-level officials called for in a chapter on enforcement.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow did not comment on possible talks with Chinese officials. But he said the Trump administration remains engaged with Beijing on the Phase 1 trade deal and USTR Robert Lighthizer was pleased with the progress so far.

China purchases of U.S. goods are running well behind the pace needed to meet a first year increase of $77 billion specified in the deal, according to official data. But China has increased the pace of farm product purchases in recent weeks.

Trump, who has frequently expressed anger at China over the coronavirus pandemic, said on Tuesday he had “postponed” talks with China because “I don’t want to deal with them now.”

As his re-election campaign ramps up, Trump has turned to tougher talk and actions against China, including sanctions over China’s Hong Kong security crackdown and the forced sale of Chinese-owned short video platform TikTok.

Trump told supporters at a rally in Pennsylvania on Thursday his administration would offer companies tax credits to bring U.S. jobs back to America from China.

“And if they don’t do it, we’ll put tariffs on those companies, and they’ll have to pay us a lot of money,” Trump said.

(Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal in Washington and Ryan Woo in Beijing; Editing by Alison Williams, Clarence Fernandez and Tom Brown)