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Katina Curtis, AAP Senior Political Writer
(Australian Associated Press)
Donald Trump’s top trade official has sought to assure Australian businesses and investors an end to the “trade spat” between the US and China is in sight.
The reassurance came as the Reserve Bank of Australia on Tuesday warned of risks “tilted to the downside” mainly because of US-China trade and technology disputes.
The disputes, said RBA Governor Philip Lowe, were affecting international trade flows and investment as businesses scale back spending plans because of the uncertainty.
US Commerce secretary Wilbur Ross told reporters in a phone briefing it had been hoped the US and China might sign a deal on the first phase of the trade negotiations at the APEC meeting that was to have been held in Chile in a fortnight.
But with that summit cancelled amid unrest in the South American nation, they are searching for another date and venue to get the deal done.
The so-called phase one negotiations have focused on immediate tensions over things like LNG and soybeans, while the more intractable structural issues will be dealt with later.
Mr Ross was “reasonably optimistic” that phase one would come together soon.
“That will go a long way towards resolving the uncertainty,” he told reporters from Thailand, where he has attended ASEAN talks.
“I think the question that people had was largely one of duration; they were worried that this trade spat might go on for years and years and years and therefore create uncertainty for supply chain decisions.
“If we resolve phase one, that will calm people down a lot because they’ll see that the endpoint is hopefully within sight.”
Getting a resolution to the first part of the talks would not only facilitate day-to-day trading, but also start rebuilding trust between the countries, he said.
“That’s a really important thing as we get to the more sensitive negotiations about issues like intellectual property rights, like force technology transfers, like equal market access, all the panoply of big issues,” he said.
“We’re hopeful that phase one will be a precursor of a much more robust set of agreements.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has taken every opportunity to urge the US president to bring a speedy resolution to the trade tensions.