The U.S. and China are “miles and miles” away from coming to agreement on a broader trade deal, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Thursday, an admission that comes as other White House officials voice optimism that a deal can be reached before the March 1 deadline.
“There’s been a lot of anticipatory work done, but we’re miles and miles from getting a resolution,” Ross told CNBC. “Frankly, that shouldn’t be too surprising.”
White House top economic adviser Larry Kudlow and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo -- while voicing optimism on the state of discussions -- have also both cautioned that disagreements remain on key areas like Beijing’s theft of intellectual property and forced technology transfer, as well as what enforcement mechanisms will be put in place to ensure the terms of the deal are adhered to.
The administration put a deadline of March 1 on the ongoing negotations. If a deal is not reached, the White House is prepared to raise tariffs on the existing $200 billion in Chinese products from 10 percent to 25 percent, an increase that would have ramifications across several U.S. industries and likely spur volatility in the stock market.
When asked about a possible extension, Ross said, "There’s quite a little bit of time between now and then to judge just where do we stand [and] is it worth going forward.”
President Trump is hoping that China’s slowing economy could force the communist nation to make key concessions to address the long-standing U.S. concerns.
"China posts slowest economic numbers since 1990 due to U.S. trade tensions and new policies," he tweeted recently. "Makes so much sense for China to finally do a Real Deal, and stop playing around!"
A group of 30 delegates from China are slated to come to Washington, D.C., next week to continue discussions after a small group of White House officials traveled to Beijing earlier this month.