US PRESIDENT Donald Trump says he has had very good discussions with China. Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
INTERNATIONAL – US President Donald Trump said on Friday that he would likely make a deal with China on trade, adding that a lot of progress had been made to resolve the two countries’ differences, but warned that he might still impose more tariffs on Chinese goods.

“China very much wants to make a deal,” Trump said in Washington, just hours after his top economic adviser expressed caution about talk of a possible US-China trade agreement.

“We’ve had very good discussions with China, we’re getting much closer to doing something,” Trump said before departing the White House for a campaign event. “I spoke with President Xi (Jinping) yesterday. They very much want to make a deal,” Trump said. “I think we’ll make a deal with China, and I think it will be a very fair deal for everybody, but it will be a good deal for the US.”

Trump said he would discuss trade with Xi when the two meet for dinner on the sidelines of the G20 leaders’ summit at the end of November in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His administration has demanded that Beijing make sweeping changes to its policies on intellectual property protections, technology transfers, industrial subsidies and domestic market access, along with steps to reduce a $375billion (R5.35trillion) US goods trade deficit with China. Trump said a deal with China would also be good for Beijing.

“If we can open up China and make it fair, for the first time ever - this should have been done years ago by other presidents but it wasn’t - I am very much willing to do it,” he said.

Trump’s comments came a day after a phone call with Xi that he described as “very good”. The president’s remarks helped US stocks to trim their losses on a day that started with market optimism over a report quoting unnamed sources as saying that Trump had ordered his cabinet to draw up terms for a China trade deal.

But by midday, shares had turned negative, weighed down by Apple’s disappointing earnings forecast and comments from White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow that he was less optimistic than previously about a deal between Washington and Beijing. Kudlow, speaking on CNBC, contradicted the report and added: “There’s no mass movement, there’s no huge thing. We’re not on the cusp of a deal.” One of China’s vice-commerce ministers, Wang Bingnan, said on Saturday that the country was willing to resolve trade issues with the US through mutually respectful talks and on an equal footing, similar to past comments from Beijing.

Trump administration officials have said US-China trade talks cannot resume until Beijing outlines specific actions it would take to meet US demands for sweeping changes to policies on technology transfers, industrial subsidies and market access.

Trump said that if a deal is not made with China, he could impose tariffs on another $267bn in Chinese imports into the US, adding that China’s economy had “been hit very hard” by previous US tariffs.

The US has imposed tariffs on $250bn worth of Chinese goods so far, while China has retaliated with $110bn worth of tariffs on US goods.

The Trump administration has also taken action to hit the Chinese semiconductor industry, indicting two companies accused of stealing trade secrets and banning US software and equipment exports to one of them. Reuters