Trump adviser says US expects China to act swiftly

WASHINGTON (The Straits Times/ANN) - The commitment made at the Trump-Xi meeting is of enormous significance, says US President Donald Trump's chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow.

The United States expects China to act immediately on the commitment made on trade and reforms at Chinese President Xi Jinping's dinner meeting with US President Donald Trump in Buenos Aires, said the US leader's chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow.

One expectation based on the meetings with Mr Xi and China's economic czar, Vice-Premier Liu He, was that China would slash tariffs on American cars and roll back its retaliatory tariffs on American agricultural imports.

"My expectation is that China will roll back those tariffs quickly," Mr Kudlow, director of the President's National Economic Council, told journalists in a conference call on Monday. "That is my understanding, and hopefully we will see some immediate action."

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC that Mr Xi offered a clear commitment to open China's markets to US companies in his meeting with Mr Trump on the sidelines of the recent Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires.

"They put on the table an offer of over US$1.2 trillion (S$1.64 trillion) in additional commitments. But the details of that still need to be negotiated," said Mr Mnuchin. "This is the first time we have a commitment from them that this will be a real agreement."

On Sunday night, upon his return from Argentina, Mr Trump tweeted: "China has agreed to reduce and remove tariffs on cars coming into China from the US. Currently the tariff is 40 per cent."

Mr Kudlow told journalists: "That is my understanding, I believe that commitment was made... This is an area where that word 'immediately' comes in. Let's get rolling, folks."

Both sides agreed to a 90-day negotiation window to reach a deal on trade and reforms, starting on Dec 1.

Possibly to push back against some scepticism over the deal, given that there are weeks of negotiations before a real agreement emerges, Mr Kudlow acknowledged that what happened at the meeting was not a deal, but a commitment. However, that was of enormous significance, he emphasised.

He said the chemistry between the two leaders was evident. Mr Xi had come fully briefed to make his pitch to Mr Trump. "He engaged in a level of detail. You could say he was selling this," said Mr Kudlow.

"We have never had such broad-based detail, and this is new. There is stuff on the table we have not seen before. That bolsters my optimism."

But Mr Kudlow did inject a note of caution. "I am cautiously optimistic," he said at one point. "I may be wrong," he said at another.

Citing the troubled history of negotiations, he said "we have been down this road before historically... and the story has always been disappointing. Stuff that they say will get done doesn't get done. And I am not questioning them right now. I am just saying the history is not great".

But he emphasised: "We never got to this stage before. We never even got close to this."

A timetable would have to be set for talks, Mr Kudlow said. "It is all going to begin very fast."

But he added: "Much of the credibility of this discussion will hinge on rapid movement and implementation of Chinese commitment. And they know that, and this is something we explicitly talked about with Vice-Premier Liu He and others."

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