US, China hold more trade talks overshadowed by Kim visit

Jeannie Matthews
January 11, 2019

Gao did not comment, however, on whether he was confident that the talks could be wrapped up in the 90-day period laid out by President Donald Trump and China's Xi Jinping.

China is facing the daunting task of presenting a credible plan to meet Trump's demands to cut down the trade deficit.

U.S. and Chinese officials discussed "ways to achieve fairness, reciprocity and balance in trade relations", the U.S. Trade Representative's office said in a statement.

A woman tries out a sweater at a USA retailer GAP's flagship store in Beijing, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. "If the results of the talks are positive, it would be beneficial for both China and the U.S. and it would be good news for the global economy".

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross expressed optimism on Monday, telling CNBC that "there's a very good chance that we'll get a reasonable settlement". The Chinese side was led by Commerce Vice Minister Wang Shouwen. Trump tweeted on Tuesday, the latest in a series of upbeat messages from him on the negotiations since both his meeting with Xi and the December market turmoil. Lu said an official statement would come later.

The two sides appear to have made headway in getting China to buy more American products and further opening up its market. They say China's companies are treated unfairly in national security reviews of proposed corporate acquisitions, though nearly all deals are approved unchanged.

Notably, in Thursday's press conference in Beijing, Gao avoided verifying some of the specifics of the USTR press release, including the promise for China to purchase increased amounts of US goods as well as the specific list of issues covered.

For their part, Chinese officials are unhappy with US curbs on exports of "dual use" technology with possible military applications.

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China is strong and has its own needs, said the Global Times, published by the ruling Communist Party. Apple Inc. cut its revenue outlook last week as sales of the iPhone were slower than expected in China, while data on factory activity and retail sales in the Asian nation were also weak.

The results of the talks are expected be analysed at a separate meeting between USA trade representative Robert Lighthizer and Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He after which the two sides were expected to announce a decision.

"Prices are coming off a bit with some investors feeling the gains may be excessive, but the bullishness especially from progress on trade negotiations will drive the market higher", Sungchil Will Yun, a commodities analyst at HI Investment & Futures Corp., said by phone.

But much work remains before the two economic powers climb down.

Imports at major USA container ports are levelling off due to high warehouse inventories after retailers' months-long rush to bring in Chinese merchandise before higher tariffs hit, according to a US retail trade report.

The two sides gave no indication what their next step will be.

Analysts said the positive momentum from the working talks will need to be followed up by more senior officials, such as Liu and United States trade representative Robert Lighthizer, who is in charge of overall negotiations on the U.S. side. The U.S. wants China to change its technology policy to reduce cyber theft of trade secrets as well as more access to the Chinese market for non-Chinese companies and increased protection for foreign patents and copyrights.

Leaked photographs posted on the South China Morning Post's website showed U.S. officials applauding Liu's appearance, including the U.S. delegation leader, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish. Preliminary discussions were "a little more optimistic than usual", White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told Bloomberg TV Friday.

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