Optimism rising over US, China trade accord

Steven Mnuchin
Steven Mnuchin. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN

WASHINGTON - Trade frictions are seen as the main source of uncertainty for a slowing global economy, but there are more glimmers of hope for a US-China agreement.

While there is no deadline for ending the protracted trade war with China, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Saturday the talks are nearing their conclusion, a fresh signal of progress.

Mnuchin’s remarks came on the margins of spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, which were once again dominated by fears US trade policy could upset global economic growth.

The IMF predicted this week that the slowing world economy should begin to rebound in the latter part of 2019 — provided in part that the world’s top two economies resolve their differences.

In a final statement from the meetings Saturday, the IMF’s steering committee, which represents’ the organization’s 189 members, recognized the need to “resolve trade tensions” and support reforms of the World Trade Organization that have been demanded by the United States.

While the IMF itself has warned against the “self-inflicted wounds” of tariffs and trade barriers, the committee itself steered clear of what has become an unexpected hot button in a forum once devoted to trade liberalization.

IMF chief Christine Lagarde said many officials at the meetings in Washington “actually made their views well known about the benefits of trade” for economic growth.

China’s deputy central bank governor, Chen Yulu, warned that “the protectionism of some countries has harmed mutual trust among countries,” although he did not name the United States.

In the meantime, Washington this week rattled EU nations by threatening a new set of tariffs in retaliation for subsidies to the aviation manufacturer Airbus while separately prepare for new trade talks with Japan.