US-China trade talks conclude as hopes of a deal build
Chinese and US teams ended trade talks in Beijing on Wednesday that lasted longer than expected and officials said details will be released soon, raising hopes an all-out trade war that could badly disrupt the global economy can be avoided.
The talks were extended into an unscheduled third day, showing both sides were “serious”, China’s Foreign Ministry said, Reuters reported.
Share prices jumped in Asia and markets in Europe and the United States were expected to follow suit as the longer talks fueled optimism that the world’s largest economies were inching toward an agreement.
US Undersecretary of Agriculture for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney said the US trade delegation would return to the United States later on Wednesday after a “good few days”.
“I think they went just fine,” McKinney said of the talks.
“It’s been a good one for us,” he told reporters at the delegation’s hotel, without elaborating.
Speaking at a daily news briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang confirmed both sides had agreed to extend the talks beyond Monday and Tuesday as originally scheduled.
Asked if that meant the talks had been difficult, Lu said: “I can only say that extending the consultations shows that the two sides were indeed very serious in conducting the consultations.”
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.
The editor of a state-run Chinese newspaper said in a social media post he expected China and the United States to release statements early on Thursday.
“From what I know, the trade talks, though arduous, were conducted in a pleasant and candid atmosphere. Neither side has made a briefing, because the US delegation is on the plane now,” wrote Hu Xijin, editor of the Global Times, published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily.
“The two sides will release messages at the same time on Thursday morning Beijing time,” Hu said.
The extra day of talks came amid signs of progress on issues including purchases of US farm and energy commodities and increased access to China’s markets.
However, people familiar with the negotiations told Reuters on Tuesday the two sides were 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 China will be held to its promises.
If no deal is reached by March 2, Trump has said he will proceed with raising tariffs to 25 percent from 10 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, at a time when China’s economy is slowing significantly. Beijing has retaliated in turn to US tariffs.
But as meetings wound down in Beijing on Tuesday evening, Trump tweeted: “Talks with China are going very well!”
The US team is led by Deputy US Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish, and includes undersecretaries from the US Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy and Treasury, as well as senior officials from the White House.
Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen heads the vice ministerial level talks for China, though Vice Premier Liu He, a top economic adviser to Xi, made an appearance at a meeting on Monday.
China is keen to put an end to its trade dispute with the United States but will not make any “unreasonable concessions” and any agreement must involve compromise on both sides, state newspaper the China Daily said on Wednesday.
The paper said in an editorial that Beijing’s stance remained firm that the dispute harms both countries and disrupts the international trade order and supply chains.
In what was widely seen as a goodwill gesture, China on Tuesday 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.
On Monday, Chinese importers made another large purchase of US soybeans, their third in the past month.