Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the U.S. is getting closer to a highly anticipated trade deal with China.
“The deal is not done yet but we have made a lot of progress” Mnuchin told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble in an interview that aired on “Squawk on the Street” Thursday. “We still have more work to do, and we hope to make progress this month.”
He and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are working on “detailed agreement” for “significant commitments” from Beijing. Mnuchin underlined that these discussions have been going on for two years, since the first summit between President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping.
The world’s two largest economies have been locked in a stalemate on issues including the forced transfer of technology and intellectual property. Negotiations between the two nations are aimed at “achieving needed structural changes in China that affect trade between the United States and China,” the White House said in a statement last week.
“There have to be real structural changes,” Mnuchin told CNBC.
The White House and cabinet are “completely united” on these discussions despite “chatter about different parts of the administration,” he said. Last week, President Trump and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer sparred in front of journalists — and Chinese representatives led by Vice Premier Liu He — over whether “memorandum of understanding” is the right phrase to label an agreement between the U.S. and China.
“Whether it’s myself, or Ambassador Lighthizer, Secretary Ross, Larry Kudlow or Peter Navarro — we’re all working very closely together and we have a common vision in executing and getting a real agreement,” Mnuchin said.
His comments come just a day after Ambassador Lighthizer told members of the House Ways and Means Committee that China would need to do more than just buy U.S. goods to reach a lasting trade deal. Following his testimony, the Wall Street Journal reported that Lighthizer and the White House are abandoning plans to hike tariffs on Chinese goods.
National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow was also optimistic on a deal. Kudlow told CNBC in a separate interview Thursday that the countries are making “fantastic” progress towards an agreement.
Kudlow told CNBC that China expressed willingness to prevent intellectual property theft and make other key structural changes. U.S. equities briefly pared some of their losses following Kudlow’s remarks.