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U.S. trade negotiators return this week to Beijing and to the bargaining table. It's the beginning of what they hope will be a sprint towards the finish line of a comprehensive trade deal with China. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the two sides have been making progress, but, he adds, there's still a lot of work to do. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: This week's meetings in Beijing are the latest in a series of trade talks that have ping-ponged back and forth across the Pacific. Next week, negotiators will be here in Washington. So far, the talks have gone well enough that President Trump has twice postponed making good on his threat to boost tariffs on Chinese imports. But there's no guarantee a deal will be reached.
Secretary Mnuchin told Fox Business, after months of negotiation, the two sides are approaching a moment of truth.
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STEVEN MNUCHIN: We hope within the next two rounds in China and in D.C. to be at the point where we can either recommend to the president we have a deal or make a recommendation that we don't.
HORSLEY: China has shown a willingness to buy more U.S. farm products and crack open a door to other Chinese markets. But the U.S. came into these talks with a more ambitious agenda - overhauling the structure of China's economy, putting an end to China's theft of intellectual property and ending the forced transfer of American companies' knowhow.
If a deal is worked out, it's likely to be finalized during a summit between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Chief Economist Mark Zandi of Moody's Analytics says financial markets are counting on some kind of deal getting done.
MARK ZANDI: It is critically vital that the president actually follows through and strikes a deal with the Chinese. I mean, that is what everyone now firmly expects is going to happen.
HORSLEY: Dashing those expectations could be costly. A breakdown in talks would bring higher tariffs and reawaken fears about the effects of an all-out trade war. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington.
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