The Latest: US Treasury chief: “No deadline” for China talks

U.S. Treasury chief Steven Mnuchin downplayed talk that trade discussions with China will be wrapped up by this November’s U.S. presidential election

DAVOS, Switzerland —
The Latest on the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland (all times local):

12 noon

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin downplayed talk that trade discussions with China will be wrapped up by this November’s U.S. presidential election.

Speaking at a panel at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos, Mnuchin said there is “no deadline” to the so-called Phase 2 discussions.

Last week, the U.S. and China signed off a Phase 1 agreement, which eases some sanctions on China while Beijing has agreed to step up its purchases of U.S. farm products and other goods. However, many issues remain unresolved and tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump over the past couple of years remain in place.

Mnuchin said “we couldn’t be more pleased” with both the Phase 1 agreement and the conclusion of trade negotiations with Canada and Mexico. He said “a lot of important issues” were dealt with in Phase 1, which “gives us a great advantage in Phase 2.”

He said there was “no question” that tariffs and the threat of tariffs have been a “big incentive” in the trade agreements.

He also hinted that a grand trade agreement with China may not come in one go and that there may be a series of smaller agreements.


11:35 a.m.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Wednesday Russia has the responsibility to halt the Syrian government’s attacks a day after airstrikes on rebel-held parts of northwestern Syria killed at least 17 people.

The airstrikes and shelling were part of a Syrian government offensive on the northwestern province of Idlib, the last rebel stronghold in the country, and the rebel-held parts of nearby Aleppo province.

The strikes came amid continued violence despite a new cessation of hostilities agreement between Russia and Turkey went into effect earlier this month.

“Russia is the guarantor of the (Syrian) regime,” Cavusoglu told a panel at the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland. “Russia is obliged to stop this aggression.”

The government offensive has displaced hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom fled to areas closer to the border with Turkey. Dozens of fighters have been killed on both sides in recent days as clashes intensified.

Cavusoglu said: “The situation in Idlib is our main focus because the regime has been increasing its aggression… Already, 400,000 people have been displaced and moved toward our border.”

The Turkish minister said Turkey will continue to work with Russia in Syria, despite standing on opposing sides of the conflict.

Idlib province is dominated by al-Qaida-linked militants. It’s also home to 3 million civilians and the United Nations has warned of the growing risk of a humanitarian catastrophe along the Turkish border.


9:55 a.m.

Hopes are rising that a breakthrough in discussions on how to tax digital companies will emerge at the World Economic Forum on Wednesday.

José Ángel Gurría, the secretary general of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development group of leading industrial nations, told The Associated Press that he expects there to be a solution as “there is no plan B.”

The OECD has been seeking to come up with a framework that would allow France to suspend its plans to tax companies like Amazon and Facebook. In return, the U.S. is expected to agree to a multilateral approach.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are both set to meet in the gathering of the elites in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.

“We just need to continue to work on the multilateral solution and then deliver an option to the whole of the world, produced by the whole of the world and therefore hopefully that is accepted by the whole of the world,” Gurría said.

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