The differences were evident even as Trump announced the “substantial phase one deal” with China’s lead negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He, and promised a broader thaw in relations as part of what he dubbed a “love-fest.”

Behind closed doors though, the mood was not quite as fulsome. According to people close to the talks, the sides were still debating how to apportion issues between phases and what to announce just minutes before reporters were let in for the announcement.

‘Positive Direction’

Trump declared before the press that there could be as many as three phases to a deal while Liu declined to discuss details.

“We very much agree that to get the China-U.S. economic relationship right, it’s something that is good for China, for the United States, and for the whole world and we are making a lot of progress toward a positive direction,” Liu told reporters.

China’s Ministry of Commerce did not immediately respond to a fax seeking comment on the trade talks. But a former official says there could still be a long road ahead.

“If the U.S. demands are too much, such as insisting on the so-called structural changes that will alter China’s economic model, then the complete deal can’t be finished during Trump’s first term,” said Zhou Xiaoming, a former Ministry of Commerce official. “Other than that, China wants to have a deal as quickly as possible” though a complete deal would include the removal of all punitive tariffs, he said.

That’s far from what the Trump administration is prepared to offer. “It’s not obvious that there is a real meeting of minds,” Prasad said.

This article provided by Bloomberg News.

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