Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Reuters he does not expect the coronavirus outbreak to have a material impact on the Phase 1 US-China trade deal, although that could change as more data becomes available in coming weeks.
Finance officials from the world’s 20 largest economies aka G-20, said Sunday they would keep a close watch on the fast-spreading outbreak, but stopped short of identifying it as downside risk to the global economy.
Fears of a coronavirus pandemic mounted even as they met in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, with sharp rises in new cases reported in Iran, Italy and SKorea.
Secretary Mnuchin, in an interview with Reuters Sunday, cautioned against jumping to conclusions about the impact of what he called a “human tragedy” on the global economy, or on companies’ supply chain decisions, saying it was simply too soon to know.
China was focused on the virus for now, he said, but Washington still expected Beijing to live up to its commitments to buy more US products and services under the trade deal.
“I do not expect that this will have any ramifications on Phase 1. Based on everything that we know, and where the virus is now, I do not expect that it’s going to be material,” he said.
“Obviously that could change as the situation develops. Within the next few more weeks, we’ll all have a better assessment as there’s more data around the rate of the virus spreading.“
Secretary Mnuchin acknowledged the outbreak could also delay the start of negotiations on deepening the trade deal with Beijing and reaching a Phase 2 agreement, but said he was not worried about that now.
“If we get the right deal before the election, that is great. If we get the right deal after the election, that’s great. We do not feel any pressure one way or another,” he said, referring to the 3 November US Presidential election, in which President Trump is seeking re-election.
Secretary Mnuchin noted that the contagion factor with COVID-19 was higher than with the SARS outbreak in China in the early 2000’s, but said the survival rate appeared to be much higher
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