The United States’ top trade official said Wednesday that a new trade deal with China is not close to being completed.
“Much still needs to be done before an agreement can be reached,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told a congressional panel in Washington. “If we can complete this effort, and again I say if, and if we can reach a resolution on the issue of enforceability, we might have an agreement that enables us to turn the corner in our relationship with China.”
The United States and China, the world’s two biggest economies, have been negotiating for months on a new agreement, even as they have imposed hefty new tariffs on billions of dollars of each other’s exports.
WATCH: US-China Trade Talks 'Not Close'
Lighthizer said the countries’ negotiators, who have been meeting in Washington and Beijing, “are making real progress.”
President Donald Trump cited that progress Sunday in postponing what would have been a sharp increase in U.S. duties on $200 billion in Chinese imports that would have taken effect Friday.
During a news conference Thursday in Hanoi after the abrupt end of his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Trump said there was a very good chance of reaching agreement with China, crediting the “difficulties” the tariffs are causing its economy.
The most recent U.S. statistics show China last year had a $382 billion trade surplus in deals with the United States through November. Trump is trying to alter trade terms between the two countries to end what the United States, Japan and European countries contend are China’s unfair trade practices, including state intervention in markets, subsidies of some industries and theft of foreign technology.
China has offered to increase its purchase of American farm products and energy as part of a new trade pact.
Members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, urged Lighthizer to reach a wide-ranging trade agreement.