Mnuchin: We've made 'very meaningful progress' with China on trade issues

  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tells CNBC the talks already have yielded tangible benefits.
  • Mnuchin says if China doesn't follow through on its pledges, duties that have been suspended will be imposed.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin put a positive face on the state of U.S.-China trade negotiations, saying Monday the talks so far already have yielded tangible benefits.

"I think we've made very meaningful progress," he told CNBC's "Squawk Box." "Now it's up to both of us to make sure that we can implement it."

His comments come amid a back-and-forth tussle between the two countries over the state of trade, a key issue that President Donald Trump has vowed to resolve. Administration officials have been meeting and negotiating with their Chinese counterparts over myriad issues, including but not limited to technology, agricultural and energy products.

The two sides have backed off on threatened tariffs over dozens of products, though Mnuchin said that if China doesn't follow through on its pledges, the duties will be imposed.

"If things aren't fixed and we don't get what we want, the president can always put the tariffs back on," he said.

The latest developments saw the U.S. walk away with a pledge from China to import more U.S. goods, though without specific parameters set. Over the weekend, Mnuchin said a trade war has been put "on hold."

Still, Mnuchin said investors should view the talks as a victory for the American side.

"We came away with a very comprehensive framework agreement that needs to be implemented, but has lots of different aspects," he said. Asked by CNBC's Becky Quick whether investors should view his comments over the weekend that a trade war has been put on hold as a glass half-full or half-empty scenario, Mnuchin said, "It's completely half-full."

What's left now will be the mechanics.

Mnuchin said the recent talks will serve as a framework now for companies to negotiate privately. He expressed particular enthusiasm regarding energy, estimating that U.S. companies likely can sell $40 billion to $50 billion to companies in China.

He added that one of the main concerns from Chinese officials was simply the ability of the U.S. to deliver the goods that China wants.

"This should be very, very good for U.S economic growth," Mnuchin said. "You combine this with tax cuts and I think we're looking at very strong GDP growth for the rest of the year."

Financial markets have been nervous over the prospect of a trade war between the two nations that could turn global. Mnuchin's weekend comments appeared to assuage traders, and the stock market is likely to open sharply higher Monday on Wall Street.

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