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Mnuchin says China trade war 'absolutely' worth it even if a phase one deal is all the US gets

Key Points
  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the U.S. trade war with China will "absolutely" have been worth it even if a "phase one" deal is all that is achieved.
  • Mnuchin has been one of President Donald Trump's lead negotiators in talks with the Chinese.
  • Trump and China's vice premier, Liu He, are expected to sign the phase one deal at the White House on Wednesday.
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Mnuchin: The China trade war is 'absolutely' worth it

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin believes the U.S. trade war with China will have been worth it even if an incomplete deal is all that is reached.

"Absolutely," Mnuchin said, in response to being asked Wednesday on CNBC's "Squawk Box" whether he thought the "phase one" agreement was enough to make the protracted dispute valuable to the U.S.

Mnuchin has been one of President Donald Trump's lead negotiators during talks with the Chinese. He described the administration's view of economic policy to explain why he thinks the phase one deal is good enough to have been worth the trade war.

"Look at the President's economic plan: The economy is performing because it was all about tax cuts, regulatory relief and trade. We now have USMCA that's going to pass the Senate this week, we have China phase one, there's a deal with Japan, a deal with Korea – these are all going to have significantly positive effects on the 2020 economy," Mnuchin said.

Trump and China's vice premier, Liu He, are expected to sign the phase one deal at the White House on Wednesday. While Trump said last week that his administration will begin negotiating the next part of the trade deal "right away," the president also said he may "wait to finish 'til after the election."

"Because by doing that, I think we can actually make a little bit better deal, maybe a lot better deal," Trump said last Thursday.

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Watch CNBC's full interview with Secretary Mnuchin on US-China phase one trade deal

Mnuchin told CNBC that "phase two" of the deal will include easing of U.S. tariffs on goods purchase from China – but the agreements may be segmented into smaller pieces.

"Just as in this deal there were certain rollbacks, in phase two there will be additional rollbacks," he said. "It's really just a question of — and we've said before — phase two may be 2A, 2B, 2C. We'll see."

– CNBC's Tom Franck contributed to this report.