Outcome of trade talks with China remains in doubt, top US trade official Robert Lighthizer tells senators

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They may have left the spotlight of centre stage, but top trade negotiators from China and the United States continue to work furiously on the details of an agreement to resolve the countries’ deep-rooted economic standoffs and end their prolonged trade war, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told a Senate committee on Tuesday.

Lighthizer, who is in charge of the US side of the trade talks, said at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Tuesday that the Trump administration’s hope was that “we are in the final weeks of having an agreement – but I’m not predicting one”.

“There still are major, major issues that have to be resolved,” he added, “and if those issues are not resolved in a way that’s beneficial to the United States, we will not have an agreement”.

Lighthizer said he would hold another telephone negotiation with his Chinese counterparts on Wednesday, after a phone conversation with them lasted two hours Monday night.

Chinese state media reported that Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He had a telephone conversation with Lighthizer and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at 7pm on Monday, discussing some key issues concerning the text of a trade agreement, without elaborating on details.

Lighthizer said at the hearing that he was on the phone “up to 9 o’clock” Monday night and that the discussion went through many “very, very complicated issues”.

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