The United States and China are "miles and miles" from resolving trade issues but there is a fair chance the two countries will get a deal, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Thursday.
"We would like to make a deal but it has to be a deal that will work for both parties," Ross told CNBC. "We're miles and miles from getting a resolution," Ross told CNBC.
A 30-member Chinese delegation plans to come to Washington next week for a round of trade talks next week, he said, as the world's two largest economies try to meet a March 1 deadline to resolve their trade disputes.
Ross tried to tamp down expectations for the high-level talks. "There is a very large group coming. There's been a lot of anticipatory work done but we're miles and miles from getting a resolution and frankly that shouldn't be too surprising," Ross told CNBC.
"Trade is very complicated, there's lots and lots of issues - not just how many soybeans and how much LNG."
More important, he said, were the structural reforms that Washington believes are needed in the Chinese economy, as well as enforcement mechanisms for failure to adhere to whatever is agreed to.
U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to increase tariffs to 25 percent from 10 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports on March 2 unless China takes steps to protect U.S. intellectual property.
Trumps also wants China to end policies that force American companies to turn over technology to a Chinese partner, allow more market access for U.S. businesses, and reduce other non-tariff barriers to American products.
China has repeatedly played down complaints about intellectual property abuses, and has rejected accusations that foreign companies face forced technology transfers.
Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will hold in-depth discussions on economic and trade issues during his visit to the United States next Wednesday and Thursday, the Chinese commerce ministry said on Thursday.
"During the upcoming high-level negotiations, both sides will continue to hold in-depth talks on various economic and trade issues of mutual concern," Gao Feng, spokesman at the commerce ministry, told reporters.
Firms in both countries are feeling the sting of U.S. tariffs and retaliation from China. Apple Inc, (AAPL) earlier this month rattled markets by cutting its sales outlook, blaming soft Chinese demand.
Ross said the two sides were unlikely to resolve all their disputes in next week's talks.
"It's too complicated a topic, too many issues, it's not a realistic expectation," he said. "That's different from saying that we won't get to a deal. I think there's a fair chance we do get to a deal."
Material from Bloomberg and Reuters has been used in this report.
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