US-China trade talks conclude, hopes of a deal build

Negotiators in NBeijing reportedly managed to narrow differences as a sign of progress

Photo: EPA

China’s Foreign Ministry announced Wednesday that its trade talks with the US in Beijing had wrapped up, and that results would soon be released. Yet, the length of the negotiations, which extended into an unexpected third day, already fuels optimism that the world’s largest economies can finally strike a trade deal to avoid an all-out confrontation that would severely disrupt the global economy.

In an effort such outcome to be avoided Beijing began buying American soybeans again and has cut tariffs on American cars. It is also offering to keep its hands off valuable corporate secrets, while also allowing foreign investors into more industries than ever before. In what is widely seen as a goodwill gesture, China on Tuesday also issued long-awaited approvals for the import of five genetically modified crops, which could boost its purchases of US grains as farmers decide which crops to plant in the spring.

Beijing hopes all of that will be enough to let President Trump declare victory and end the trade war between the two largest economies, but the Trump administration is still pushing for a lot more and want to get effective enforcement to make sure that China follows through. Yet, for now it seems that Beijing's efforts are enough. Ted McKinney, US Under Secretary of Agriculture for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, addressed the negotiations earlier in the day to reporters, describing talks as "just fine.”

“It’s been a good one for us,” McKinney said without elaborating.

On Tuesday evening, Trump also tweeted on the matter: “Talks with China are going very well!”

This week’s meetings are the first face-to-face talks since US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed in December to a 90-day truce in a trade war that has roiled global financial markets. If no deal is reached by 2 March, Trump has said he will proceed with raising tariffs to 25 percent from 10 percent on $200bn worth of Chinese imports, at a time when China’s economy is slowing significantly. Beijing has retaliated in turn to US tariffs.

Originally scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, the negotiations were extended by a day amid signs of progress on issues including purchases of US farm and energy commodities and increased access to China’s markets. People familiar with the talks, however, told Reuters that the two sides are further apart on Chinese structural reforms that the Trump administration is demanding in order to stop alleged theft and forced transfer of US technology, and on how Beijing will be held to its promises.

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