Beijing: The US and China yesterday hailed “progress” after another round of high-stakes trade talks but, with major issues unresolved, there were scant details as a March 1 deadline drew nearer.
US duty rates on more than $200 billion in Chinese exports are due to more than double in two weeks – an unwelcome shock to a slowing global economy.
A fourth round in the negotiations is set for next week in Washington.
“The consultations between the two teams have made important step-by-step progress,” Chinese President Xi Jinping told top US and Chinese trade negotiators after two days of high-level talks wrapped up in Beijing, according to China’s official news agency Xinhua.
Xi said he hoped the two delegations would continue to “work hard” for a “win-win” agreement.
While American officials also spoke of progress, the White House said “much work remains.”
American officials accuse Beijing seeking global industrial predominance through an array of alleged dishonest and unfair trade practices, including the “theft” of American intellectual property and massive state intervention in commodities markets, among other charges.
Since a December detente China has resumed purchases of some US soya beans and dangled massive buying of American commodities to get US trade negotiators closer to a deal.
Purchases to reduce the “large and persistent bilateral trade deficit” were discussed, the White House Press Secretary statement said. But many China experts say Beijing’s Communist Party rulers are unlikely to make significant changes to industrial policies without a long and tough fight.
Still, expectations for an accord have been growing as China faces pressure from slowing economic growth.
“We all believe that China-US relations have broad common interests in safeguarding world peace and stability and promoting global economic prosperity and development,” Xi told the US negotiators.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who led the American delegation, told Xi that while there was more work to do, they had made progress.
Lighthizer and Xi were joined by US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other US officials seated across from China’s top trade negotiator Liu He, Foreign Minister Wang Yi and central bank chief Yi Gang.
Trump’s economic adviser Larry Kudlow had earlier said “the vibe is good” in characterising the talks but he said there was no decision yet on extending Trump’s 90-day tariff truce.
The two sides have since last year exchanged tariffs on more than $360bn in two-way trade.
China’s trade surplus with the US last year hit a record $323.3bn as the tit-for-tat tariffs kept Chinese buyers away from American agricultural and energy exports.