US-China still 'miles' apart in trade talks, White House adviser says

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Thursday that the U.S. and China are still far from reaching a deal on trade, despite optimism that a meeting will occur between leaders of the two nations.

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“We’ve got a pretty sizable distance to go here,” Kudlow told FOX Business’ Stuart Varney. “To quote a colleague of mine – ‘we have miles to go before we sleep.’”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged on Thursday after Kudlow’s comments.

Kudlow told reporters outside the White House on Thursday that President Trump expects to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in an effort to iron out a deal on trade, though the time and place are still unknown.

The world’s two largest economies have been engaged in a tit-for-tat trade battle for nearly a year. The countries have slapped billions of dollars’ worth of tariffs on one another’s goods, though both sides agreed to a 90-day trade truce during the Group of 20 summit in late December.

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The White House said March 1 is a hard deadline to reach an agreement on trade, and will hike tariffs on Chinese goods the following day (as planned) if talks fail.

Kudlow said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will travel to China to continue discussions from the previous week, describing them as having a “good vibe.”

“Hopefully [the meetings] will go well,” he added. “Our varsity team is in there.”

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The Trump administration has criticized China for its unfair trade practices and has accused the country of stealing American intellectual property and technology – both of which are at the heart of the trade dispute.

“We covered tremendous amount of ground, and all the major issues, the technology issues the ownership issues, especially, especially, especially the evaluation issues,” Kudlow said of the meetings.

As the trade dispute progresses, China continues to experience a slowing rate of growth that is affecting both its equity and auto markets. The Shanghei Composite Index has fallen more than 24 percent over the past year, according to data compiled by the Dow Jones Market Data group. Vehicle sales in the country fell 6 percent to 22.7 million units last year, according to the China Passenger Car Association.