U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer said on Wednesday that "there's hope" that trade talks between the United States and China could lead to a fruitful outcome.
In an interview with CNBC, Lighthizer said the USTR's Office would announce a list of Chinese goods subject to potential tariffs "before very long," based on the so-called Section 301 investigation against alleged Chinese technology transfer practices.
"Then we'll go through a 60-day period where we'll give the public a chance to comment on the good and the bad things in there," he said, signaling that the Trump administration is unlikely to impose tariffs on Chinese goods until early June.
U.S. President Donald Trump last week signed a memorandum that could impose tariffs on up to 60 billion U.S. dollars of imports from China and restrictions on Chinese investment in the United States.
Such a unilateral move contradicts the commitments the United States made at the World Trade Organization (WTO) more than a decade ago, Zhang Xiangchen, Chinese ambassador to the WTO, said on Monday.
Accusing the United States of "setting a very bad precedent by bluntly breaching its commitment made to the world," Zhang called on WTO members to "jointly prevent the resurrection of 301 investigations and lock this beast back into the cage of the WTO rules."
Asked on CNBC whether U.S. negotiations with China could lead to the avoidance of tariffs or a fruitful outcome similar to the recent trade deal between the United States and South Korea, Lighthizer said "I think there is hope."
While the United States and China have two "very different" economic systems, Lighthizer said "it's very possible" that the U.S.-China trade relationship could end up in "a good place" after overcoming "a series of difficulties" over many years.
Business groups from China and the United States in recent weeks have warned the Trump administration not to move forward with its tariff plan on Chinese imports, as it would raise the costs for American consumers and companies as well as having a negative impact on the financial markets.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Monday that the door to dialogue and consultation between the United States and China has always been open.
"China is willing to have consultations with the U.S. side guided by the principle of mutual respect and benefit," Hua said at a press briefing.