Positive signals in US-China trade talks

Thursday, 2019-11-07 16:12:38
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Chinese Vice Premier Liu He (R) meets with US trade representative Robert Lighthizer (C) and US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin in Shanghai last July. (Photo: Reuters)
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NDO – The trade negotiations between the United States and China have recently seen positive signals as the Chinese Ministry of Commerce assessed that the two sides conducted “serious and constructive” discussions.

Meanwhile, the US media revealed that President Donald Trump’s administration is considering the possibility of eliminating some tariffs on imports from China.

US-China trade tensions have cooled down in recent days. China announced that the two countries have agreed on the core trade concerns. The announcement came after a recent phone call between China’s vice premier and chief trade negotiator Liu He and US trade representative Robert Lighthizer and US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin. The Chinese side stated that the two sides conducted “serious and constructive” discussions on the core trade issues, while discussing the arrangement of subsequent consultations. Meanwhile, the White House recently announced that trade representatives of the two countries have “made progress” in a number of areas and are in the process of resolving the existing issues.

Another positive signal is that the US media revealed earlier this week that the US side is considering the possibility of lifting some tariffs on imported goods from China. Accordingly, the White House is taking into account the withdrawal of the 15% tariffs, effective on September 1, imposed on US$112 billion worth of Chinese imports, including clothes and household goods. As disclosed by the US media, the Chinese side is increasing pressure on the US to remove the aforementioned tariffs and reduce the current 25% tariffs on approximately US$250 billion of imports from China. Analysts said if Washington abolishes some taxes on Chinese imports, this decision will create a favourable premise for a trade truce between the two sides.

Earlier, addressing the ninth Xiangshan Forum in Beijing, China's Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng said China and the US have “made great progress in trade negotiations”, affirming that all the issues can be resolved once the two parties respect each other. He emphasised that the world wants China and the US to end trade tensions, which requires “openness rather than division”. President Trump recently expressed optimism about the possibility of reaching a comprehensive trade agreement with China to terminate the “costly” trade war that has been lasting for more than a year. Speaking at the White House, the US leader affirmed that the progress of a trade deal with China “is going very well”. The second-phase issues of the agreement will be addressed “in a much easier way” than the first-phase issues. Earlier, he announced that the two sides would sign the deal in the first phase after it was demonstrated in the written form.

However, analysts said that despite positive signals in US-China trade talks, there is not so much optimism about an agreement that ends the trade war between these two economic powers in the near future. In the coming talks, the US side is likely to demand that China give more “reciprocal” concessions, including strengthening the provisions on intellectual property protection for US businesses and increasing the scale of purchasing US farming products. Meanwhile, it is not easy for Beijing to accept these requests. In addition, “hawks” in the US government may oppose the decision to lift some tariffs on Chinese imports as mentioned above. An objective issue that is also hindering US-China trade negotiations is Chile’s recent decision to quit the hosting of the APEC summits. Accordingly, an early opportunity to meet each other between leaders of the two countries for “trade reconciliation” is at risk of being broken.

With the great strategic and interest disagreements between China and the US, as well as the unfavourable factors mentioned above, a basic trade deal between the two leading economies of the world still seems to be far away despite many positive signals in their negotiation process.