China Trade Talks Restart Ahead of March Deadline

Kenny Grant
January 12, 2019

US-CHINA TALKS: Official statements released after the talks, which lasted a day longer than planned, did not indicate if progress was made on a tariffs battle that has shaken financial markets.

"The hard work of addressing structural issues to create a level playing field in China do not appear to have been resolved", said Lester Ross, a policy committee chief at the American Chamber of Commerce and also partner-in-charge at the Beijing office of law firm WilmerHale.

After extending to an unexpected third day, trade talks between USA and Chinese officials have concluded, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry announced Wednesday morning.

Trump imposed import tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese goods a year ago and threatened more to pressure Beijing to change its practices on issues ranging from industrial subsidies to intellectual property and hacking.

Later this month, Lighthizer is expected to meet with Vice Premier Liu He, Xi's top economic aide who is leading negotiations for China.

"I think there's a very good chance that we will get a reasonable settlement that China can live with, that we can live with and that addresses all of the key issues", Mr Ross said in an interview with CNBC. President Donald Trump earlier expressed optimism in a tweet, exclaiming "Talks with China are going very well!". Exports of Chinese goods to Russian Federation increased 12 percent and amounted to $43.45 billion, while Russia's sales to China surged 44.3 percent to $53.78 billion.

However, the USA side is pressing Beijing to scrap or change rules Washington says block market access or improperly help Chinese companies.

"The length of the meetings shows that both sides were serious and honest about the talks", he said.

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But if a deal doesn't happen, remember, "I am a Tariff Man", Trump said.

Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to halt any further tariff increases for 90 days beginning January 1.

The discussions "went just fine", he said without elaborating, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported. The statement added that talks also "focused on China's pledge to purchase a substantial amount of agricultural, energy, manufactured goods, and other products and services from the United States". China had sent its naval vessel to verify and warn it, he said.

The two sides might be moving toward a "narrow agreement", but "U.S. trade hawks" want to "limit the scope of that agreement and keep the pressure up on Beijing", said Eurasia Group analysts of Michael Hirson, Jeffrey Wright and Paul Triolo in a report.

The US China Business Council, which represents American companies working in China, applauded the "substantive discussions" but urged both sides to make tangible progress on achieving equal treatment of foreign companies in China and changes to policies aimed at technology transfer.

He had earlier warned that if a deal is not reached by March 1, the end of the 90-day grace period, the USA will increase the tariffs on the United States dollars 200 billions of goods from 10 per cent to 25 per cent.

US companies also want action on Chinese policies they complain improperly favor local companies.

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