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US and China wrap up trade talks in Beijing. What happens next?

US and Chinese negotiators wrapped up three days of trade talks in Beijing on Wednesday as they seek a way o...

Posted: Jan 10, 2019 9:45 AM
Updated: Jan 10, 2019 9:45 AM

US and Chinese negotiators wrapped up three days of trade talks in Beijing on Wednesday as they seek a way out of the damaging trade war between the world's two biggest economies.

American negotiators said in a statement Wednesday that there was a focus on discussing purchases of "a substantial amount" of agricultural, energy, manufactured goods and other products and services from the US by China but did not specify any new deals.

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Officials also stressed the necessity that any trade deal with Beijing would require "ongoing verification and effective enforcement," according to a readout released by the office of the US Trade Representative.

It's unclear from the US statement how much headway negotiators made regarding US concerns over forced technology transfers and cybertheft of trade secrets for commercial purposes.

Negotiators appeared to make more progress on areas such as plans by China to step up purchases of American exports, while giving US companies greater access to its market in order to build confidence between the two sides after months of bitter confrontation.

China said in a statement from the Commerce Ministry that the trade talks "improved mutual understanding and laid the foundation for resolving issues of mutual concern."

"Actively implementing the important consensus reached by the two heads of state, both sides held broad, in-depth and detailed exchanges on trade issues of mutual concern as well as structural issues. Both sides improved mutual understanding and laid the foundation for resolving issues of mutual concern. Both sides agreed to keep in close contact," the statement said.

The meetings in Beijing were the first formal trade negotiations between the two sides since President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed to a truce at the G20 summit in Argentina last month.

The talks were seen as a litmus test of whether a lasting deal can be reached before March 2, when the Trump administration plans to hike tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods from 10% to 25%. Such a move would significantly escalate the months-long trade war.

American officials said during their discussions they relayed Trump's commitment to addressing trade deficit concerns and resolving structural issues affecting trade between the two countries.

Negotiations were extended into a third day, which was interpreted as a sign discussions were moving in a positive direction.

"Talks with China are going very well!" Trump said in a tweet on Tuesday.

While the US government hadn't specified how long the talks would last, China's Commerce Ministry had previously said they would only go on for two days.

"It seems there have been no fist fights internally between the two delegations," a person familiar with the progress of the talks told CNN on Tuesday, describing them as "constructive."

China making encouraging moves

Key decisions on some of the tougher issues are expected to be left for future rounds of talks, such as US complaints that Beijing's policies force American companies to hand over technology and unfairly boost Chinese firms with subsidies.

The US delegation to Beijing this week was led by Jeff Gerrish, deputy to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer who is leading the negotiations for the Trump administration.

The deputy level negotiators will report back on next steps for talks, the US statement said. US officials are expected to host China's top trade negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He, in Washington later this month, a source told CNN on Monday.

One apparent breakthrough this week was an announcement by China that it would approve the imports of five new varieties of genetically modified crops, a decision for which US farmers and businesses had waited years.

It's the latest recent move by China to try to address the Trump administration's complaints.

Uncertainty over whether the two sides can build on the ceasefire agreed by Trump and Xi fueled volatile trading in global markets in recent weeks.

Stock markets were roiled last week after Apple (APPL) warned it will badly miss its quarterly sales forecast because of weaker growth in China amid the trade war.

But stocks have rebounded this week on hopes the talks between the two governments will eventually bring an end to hostilities. On Tuesday, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose more than 2% and Japan's Nikkei more than 1%.

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