China says ‘new progress’ has been made in US trade war talks

  • Commerce ministry says meeting included ‘deep exchanges’ on intellectual property and the trade balance – two key US concerns
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 December, 2018, 7:51pm
UPDATED : Monday, 24 December, 2018, 9:32am

China and US held a fresh round of trade talks last week and achieved “new progress”, China’s Ministry of Commerce said on Sunday.

According to a statement on the ministry’s website, the two sides held “vice-ministerial” level talks in a teleconference on Friday.

These included “deep exchanges” over issues such as the trade balance and intellectual property – two key US grievances – without elaborating further or naming the participants.

It also said that the two sides have discussed the arrangements for the next round of talks.

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Friday’s talks followed an earlier round on Wednesday, which were announced in a brief online statement released by the ministry on the day without providing further details.

The United States has yet to officially comment on the latest round of talks, so the decision by Beijing to publish the statement first suggests that it is trying to be more proactive in shaping the narrative by disclosing more information.

Beijing and Washington are engaged in intense talks in the hope of solving their disagreements within the 90-day truce period agreed by Donald Trump and Xi Jinping following their meeting in Buenos Aires on December 1.

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China’s top leadership concluded its annual economic work conference last Friday with a statement that it would implement whatever Trump and Xi agreed.

It is rare for official statements on the work conference to mention other countries at all, so the statement indicates the importance Beijing attached to the issue.

The talks follow a number of conciliatory gestures by China in the last couple of weeks, which include rolling back additional tariffs on US cars, placing big orders for US soybeans and downplaying the controversial Made in China 2025 strategy.

At the same time, uncertainties remain over whether China and US can reach a deal before the deadline of March 2.

Peter Navarro, Trump’s trade adviser and a noted China hawk, told Japanese newspaper Nikkei last week that it would be “difficult” for Beijing and Washington to arrive at a long-term agreement unless “Beijing was prepared for a full overhaul of its trade and industrial practices”.