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Trade Official Warn Senators of Obstacles to Quick China Deal

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The top U.S. trade official told a bipartisan group of senators in a private meeting last week that major sticking points remain in negotiations with China, a sign that it is unlikely the world’s two biggest economies will strike a deal before a March 1 deadline.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer provided the briefing to members of the Finance Committee, as well as other committees with a stake in implementing trade deals, including the Agriculture, Judiciary, and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

“I got the impression that they’re making some progress and there’s a feeling that there’s negotiations in good faith, but the really big things haven’t been tackled yet,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told The Hill, adding that he did not receive any assurance from Lighthizer that a trade deal would be negotiated before a new round of tariffs take effect at the beginning of next month.

“You kinda conclude that there’s a lot of indication of progress, but then it’s too soon to draw a conclusion,” Grassley said.

Asked if Lighthizer thinks he can get a deal by March 1, Grassley said, “I don’t think I can say yes to that.”

President Trump has threatened to raise tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods from 10 percent to 25 percent if no deal is reached.

Lighthizer called March 1 a “hard deadline” during a December appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

But on Friday the White House reportedly wavered.

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