The White House clarified that a 90-day negotiation period with China is in fact underway, hours after National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told reporters that the trade truce talks were slated to begin Jan. 1, 2019.
In an updated transcript of a call with reporters held Dec. 3, the White House press secretary's office said the talks started Dec. 1, confirming an earlier statement released following President Donald Trump's meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G-20 Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Dec. 1. The White House said at the time that the two leaders had reached a temporary truce to a trade war and tariffs.
Trump confirmed that corrected start date in a tweet on Dec. 4, stating that negotiations with China "have already started."
"Unless extended, they will end 90 days from the date of our wonderful and very warm dinner with President Xi in Argentina," Trump tweeted.
The deadline for a deal to be reached between the two economic powerhouses is March 1, 2019, based on the start date of the talks outlined by the White House.
The U.S. agreed to delay a tariff increase on $200 billion of Chinese imports, according to the White House. If a deal is not reached, Washington will raise the rate of its currently imposed tariffs on the $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25% from 10%.
Chinese officials have acknowledged the temporary deal with the U.S. but have not commented publicly about a 90-day negotiation period.
A deal is contingent on Beijing making advances to quell its outstanding issues with forced technology transfer of American companies doing business there as well as intellectual property protection.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is leading those talks, though Kudlow said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin "will still be very involved."
Kudlow also told reporters that he believed President Trump's recently made threats to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement was done to "light a fire under Congress" to pass the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which will replace the existing North American trade deal.
He could not confirm if and when that withdrawal, which some companies and trade groups warn could be devastating for North American supply chains, may happen.