Trump: US, China in ‘final throes’ of ‘phase one’ trade deal

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a "Black Voices for Trump" campaign event in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., November 8, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

The U.S. and China are in the “final throes” of finalizing a phase one trade deal, President Trump said Tuesday at the White House, while again declining to say if he would sign a Hong Kong human rights bill that was approved by Congress.

Trump reiterated that he has a “very good relationship” with Chinese President Xi Jinping and that the two sides are close on the deal, which was agreed upon last month. The two nations have been working to put it in writing since then, and had hoped to sign it in mid-November.

“It’s going very well, but at the same time, we want to see it go well in Hong Kong,” he said. “I think it will. I think President Xi can make that happen. I know him, and I know he’d like to make it happen.”

He confirmed that he has been watching the results of the weekend Hong Kong elections, where pro-democracy candidates won big. His message to Hong Kong voters: “we are with them.”

The Chinese Commerce Ministry said Tuesday that Vice Premier Liu He and other senior officials spoke by phone with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. U.S. trade sources confirmed the call with FOX Business.

The state-run Xinhua News Agency said the two sides discussed “solving issues regarding each other’s core concerns, reached consensus on properly resolving related issues and agreed to maintain communication on remaining issues in consultations on the Phase 1 deal.”

China has vowed to retaliate if Trump signs a bill that would penalize Chinese and Hong Kong officials for human rights abuses in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory, and Trump has suggested that the bill could hurt trade negotiations.

“I stand with Hong Kong, I stand with freedom, I stand with all of the things that we want to do,” Trump said last Friday. “But we also are in the process of making the largest trade deal in history and if we could do that, that would be great.”