[Analytics] China-US trade talks end on positive note

Officials from the US and China carried out "wide, deep and thorough exchanges" on trade and structural issues of mutual concern.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING, Jan 10, 2019, The Straits Times. Trade discussions between the United States and China spanned a wide range of matters, including “structural issues” that the Americans have long complained about, statements from both sides revealed, reported The Straits Times.

The three-day closed door negotiations ended on Wednesday (Dec 9) on a positive note.

A statement released by China’s Commerce Ministry on Thursday morning said both sides carried out “wide, deep and thorough exchanges” on trade and structural issues of mutual concern.

The talks “enhanced mutual understanding, and established a foundation for solving, each other’s concerns”, said the statement, stressing that both sides agreed to maintain close communication, while providing few other details.

But a statement released earlier by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) said the talks were held with “a view to achieving needed structural changes in China with respect to forced technology transfer, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers, cyber intrusions and cyber theft of trade secrets for commercial purposes, services, and agriculture”.

In addition to the large trade deficit, the US has long complained about such structural issues.

The talks also focused on “China’s pledge to purchase a substantial amount of agricultural, energy, manufactured goods, and other products and services from the US” according to the USTR.

“The officials also discussed the need for any agreement to provide for complete implementation subject to ongoing verification and effective enforcement,” said the US statement, adding that US officials, who left Beijing on Wednesday, will now report back for further guidance.

The talks – led by US Deputy Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish and Chinese Vice-Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen – were initially scheduled to end on Tuesday.

But they extended past their deadline, which the Chinese Foreign Ministry said signified that both sides were “very serious about these negotiations”.

They were the first face-to-face meetings since Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump brokered a 90-day ceasefire in trade hostilities in December.

The trade war has seen both sides impose tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of goods from each other.

The vice-ministerial level talks are working-level discussions and not meant to yield a final agreement.

But they are a key step before both countries’ top negotiators – US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He – can sit down to thrash out a deal.

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