US official: We still hope to have a trade agreement with China this year

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — A preliminary trade deal with China could still be reached by the end of the year, but warned Washington would not turn a blind eye to what is happening in Hong Kong, US national security adviser Robert O’Brien said.

US China officials
US national security adviser Robert O’Brien shakes hands with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang in Bangkok on November 4, 2019. REUTERS

The comments inflame growing fears that China’s crackdown on anti-government protests in Hong Kong could further complicate efforts by Beijing and Washington to end a trade war that has disrupted world markets and dampened expectations for global economic growth.

“We hope to conclude a (one phase) agreement by the end of the year,” O’Brien told reporters at a security conference in Halifax on Saturday.

“At the same time, we will not turn a blind eye to what is happening in Hong Kong and what is happening in the South China Sea and other parts of the world where China’s activity is of concern to us.”

US President Donald Trump said on Friday he had told Chinese President Xi Jinping that crushing Hong Kong protesters would have a “huge negative impact” on efforts to reach an agreement to end the 16-month-old trade war.

US Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin said in October that trade negotiators from the two countries were finalizing the text of a preliminary trade agreement to be signed by US and Chinese presidents in November.

But trade experts and sources close to the White House said last week the completion of the deal could be delayed for next year as Beijing pressed for more customs to be lifted and Washington made more demands in return.

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