US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said there is a ways to go in trade negotiations with Beijing (MANDEL NGAN)

Washington (AFP) – Washington’s chief trade negotiator on Wednesday said there remained much to do before reaching a new trade agreement with China despite “real progress” so far.

After months of negotiating with Beijing, “now we are making real progress,” US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in congressional testimony.

However, “much still needs to be done both before an agreement is reached, and more importantly after it is reached if one is reached.”

Citing progress toward a new trade agreement with Beijing, President Donald Trump on Sunday said he would postpone a sharp increase in US duties on $200 billion in Chinese imports while the two sides worked to reach an agreement.

Along with Japanese and European officials, the United States accuses China of entrenched unfair trade practices, including massive state intervention in markets, subsidies and the theft of foreign technology.

Chinese officials have offered to increase purchases of American farm goods and energy exports but it remains unclear whether Beijing will give in to US demands for fundamental changes in industrial policy, which analysts say could weaken the communist party’s power.

Lighthizer’s testimony coincided with other headline-grabbing appearances on Capitol Hill, with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and former Trump attorney Michael Cohen also appearing.

But Lighthizer’s remark about the remaining work needed in the China negotiations appeared to helped send stocks lower on Wall Street.

“It’s part of the negotiating tactic. They don’t want to be seen as weak against China,” said Adam Sarhan of 50 Park Investments told AFP, adding that investors were not unduly worried.

“I don’t think the market is really taking that seriously. It is pulling back after a recent rally.”

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