Jerome Powell, chairman of the US Federal Reserve, left, speaks as Steven Mnuchin, US Treasury Secretary, listens during a Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) meeting at the US Treasury in Washington, D.C on Tuesday. Image Credit: Bloomberg

WASHINGTON: US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Wednesday trade negotiations with China appear to have taken a brief pause, and he damped expectations that the countries would make substantial progress toward an agreement at an upcoming G20 meeting.

“In any negotiation there are ups and downs, there are hiatuses, and there are much more active periods. So it appears as though we may be in something of a hiatus now,” he said in an interview with CNBC.

The Group of 20 industrialised nations will hold a summit in Argentina next month, and there has been some speculation that US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping could meet about their current trade issues. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said no decision has been made for a meeting.

“Meetings of leaders at the G20 never get into huge amounts of detail. Those are meetings that are designed to be broad policy statements,” Ross said in the CNBC interview.

He added that many times leaders will talk on the perimeters of the larger summit sessions.

“Generally those are an hour or less in duration and you can’t do a multi-thousand page trade agreement in an hour,” he said.

On Tuesday, the US Trade Representative’s office told Congress it intends to open trade talks with the European Union, the United Kingdom and Japan.

Under fast-track rules, the United States cannot start talks with the EU, Japan and the United Kingdom until 90 days after notifying Congress.

“We will continue to expand US trade and investment by negotiating trade agreements with Japan, the EU and the United Kingdom,” US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement.

“We are committed to concluding these negotiations with timely and substantive results for American workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses.”

The letters from Lighthizer to Congress come weeks after the United States won agreement on reworking the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada, and as the administration faces continuing trade friction with China.

The administration aims to “address both tariff and non-tariff barriers and to achieve fairer, more balanced trade” with the EU and Japan, the letters said.