USTR will only have about 30% of its staff due to the shutdown as China trade deadline approaches

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said Monday that it ran out of funding and would function with about 30 percent of its staff even as it spearheads high-stakes trade talks with China ahead of an early March deadline.

The USTR said it would continue with trade negotiations, despite the extreme reduction in head count as a result of the partial government shutdown.

The agency, which conducts trade negotiations and recommends trade policy to the president, posted a short press release announcing its operating status Monday. The full statement follows:

USTR has implemented its lapse in appropriations contingency plan. Excepted personnel will ensure USTR continues to conduct operations, including trade negotiations and enforcement.

The agency will operate with 79 staff members during the shutdown, according to the contingency plan for the Executive Office of the President. The USTR has 265 full-time employees.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to a temporary cease-fire in December, putting the bilateral trade war on hold. U.S. officials have 90 days — until March 1 — to negotiate an agreement.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has supported previous tariffs on Chinese imports and is considered a China hard-liner.

On Jan. 9, the U.S. trade delegation wrapped three days of trade talks in Beijing. In a press release from that day, the agency said its delegation would “now report back to receive guidance on the next steps.”

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