Trump, speaking to reporters in Hanoi on Thursday after a summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, said: “Speaking of China we’re very well on our way to doing something special. But we’ll see.”
“I am always prepared to walk,” he said. “I’m never afraid to walk from a deal, and I would do that with China, too, if it didn’t work out.”
If China were to remove the tariffs, it would likely be a huge boon to US crop markets that have been caught in the trade war crossfire.
Soybean, pork and ethanol shipments have all languished amid the duties. China is a key destination for most of the world’s biggest agriculture markets.
Farmers and lawmakers have long decried the tariffs, and the US agriculture economy has suffered under the weight of falling crop prices.
China has already made some good-faith purchases of American soybeans after declaring a trade truce with the US in December. Last week, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said more soybean purchases were coming.
Ending the tariffs would dovetail with a proposal by Beijing to buyan additional $US30 billion ($42.4 billion) a yearof American agricultural products including corn, soybeans and wheat as part of a possible agreement.
The preparations for a Trump-Xi summit come amid conflicting signals from the Trump administration over the prospect of a deal.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday the two nations are working on a 150-page document that would turn into a “very detailed agreement”, though he cautioned that “we still have more work to do”.
Speaking shortly before Mnuchin, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the countries are on the verge of an “historic” pact that would commit Beijing to cut subsidies on state-owned companies and disclose when its central bank intervenes in currency markets.
His optimism came just a day after Trump’s top trade negotiator struck a more cautious tone.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told lawmakers that more work needs to be done and said the administration won’t accept a deal that doesn’t include significant “structural” changes to China’s state-driven economy. He also stressed the need for a enforcement mechanism, allowing the US to take unilateral action if China breaks the rules.