Washington: Clete Willems, a top trade official in President Donald Trump’s White House who has been a key figure in negotiations with China, is leaving his post for family reasons, he said on Friday.
Willems, a deputy to Trump’s top economic adviser Larry Kudlow, is departing as trade talks between the world’s two biggest economies look like they will drag on past the initial goal of a deal by the end of March.
Willems has been a constant presence during US talks with China, which have encountered stumbling blocks over Washington’s demands for a strong enforcement mechanism and for China to change its habits on intellectual property and technology transfers from American companies doing business there.
The talks are being led by US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Willems, who has made repeated trips to Beijing as part of the US
delegation, has served in a more behind-the-scenes role.
The Wisconsin native told Reuters that he and his wife had just had a second child and said he was not leaving the White House because of any dissatisfaction with his work.
“I love my job, but I love my family, too,” he said.
Willems expressed pride in the administration’s work on trade, saying the Trump team had “changed the conversation” on the issue.