Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday that a future "Phase II" trade agreement with China would lower US tariffs on goods bought in Beijing, even if the second round of negotiations were divided into several rounds.
"Just like this deal, there were certain rollbacks, and there will be additional rollbacks in the second phase," he told CNBC. "It's really just a question of – and we said – phase two can be 2A, 2B, 2C. We'll see."
"The first step really focuses on enforcement, but this gives China a great incentive to go back to the table and agree to the additional issues that remain to be resolved," he added.
Mnuchin joined CNBC hours before the signing of an important "phase 1" contract, which includes an agreement between China to purchase approximately $ 200 billion in US goods over a two-year period.
However, the agreement is also expected to reduce the structural barriers to American companies wishing to do business in China. In particular, the pact is intended to address concerns from US executives who have long complained about routinely putting pressure, if not being forced, on sharing key technologies in exchange for market access.
Although China denies forcing foreign companies to hand over proprietary technologies, American companies are often forced to share business secrets through back door tactics like joint ventures. Such practices, combined with Beijing's subsidy practice for domestic companies, can appear to be overnight competition for American companies.
One of the most delicate US-China issues in the past two years, allegations of forced technology transfer and intellectual property theft should be addressed in the first phase, Mnuchin said.
"It is not a question of approval, it is a question of what they will do," said the finance minister. "And China has agreed to put together very important laws to change the rules and regulations, and has firmly committed to our companies not to force the technology."
"And I think it's a huge win for our technology companies, for our companies, and for American workers," he added.
These concerns drove President Donald Trump to start a real trade war with China almost two years ago when he first announced tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.
The feud between the two largest economies in the world has resulted in both sides levying multi-billion dollar import taxes and forcing large American companies to shift their supply chains across Asia. U.S. farmers, in particular, were hit hard by the trade dispute after China began buying soybeans and other agricultural commodities from Brazil and other South American countries.
– CNBC's Eunice Yoon contributed to the reporting.