Talks between China and the United States to resolve their bruising trade war will resume next week in Washington, with both sides saying this week’s negotiations in Beijing made progress.
The White House stood by its March 1 deadline for reaching a deal or raising tariffs on certain Chinese goods, despite U.S. President Donald Trump having said he was reluctantly willing to let the target date slide.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement on Friday the two economic superpowers “will continue working on all outstanding issues in advance of the March 1, 2019, deadline.”
“These detailed and intensive discussions led to progress between the two parties. Much work remains, however,” Sanders said about the Beijing round of talks.
China and the United States reached a consensus in principle on some key issues during the talks, China’s state news agency Xinhua said on Friday, adding they had a detailed discussion on a memorandum of understanding on trade and economic issues. It gave no details.
The countries focused this week on technology, intellectual property rights, agriculture, services, non-tariff barriers and currency, and discussed potential Chinese purchases of U.S. goods and services to reduce a “large and persistent bilateral trade deficit,” Sanders said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping met U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday after a week of talks at senior and deputy levels, and called for a deal both sides could accept, Chinese state media said.
U.S. duties on $200 billion in imports from China are set to rise to 25 percent from 10 percent if no deal is reached by March 1 to address U.S. demands that China curb forced technology transfers and better enforce intellectual property rights.
After talks on Thursday, Mnuchin said on Twitter that he and Lighthizer had held “productive meetings” with Xi’s top economic adviser, Vice Premier Liu He.
“The consultations between the two sides’ teams achieved important step-by-step progress,” Xi said, according to state television.
“Next week, both sides will meet again in Washington. I hope you will continue efforts to advance reaching a mutually beneficial, win-win agreement,” Xi said at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.
He added that China was willing to take a “cooperative approach” to settling bilateral trade frictions.
Lighthizer told Xi the senior officials had “two very good days” of talks.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a member of the U.S. trade delegation to China, leaves a hotel in Beijing, China February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee
“We feel that we have made headway on very, very important, and very difficult issues. We have additional work to do but we are hopeful,” Lighthizer said, according to a foreign media pool video.
Neither country has offered new details on how they might de-escalate the tariff war that has roiled financial markets and disrupted manufacturing supply chains.
Although Trump said this week that an extension of the tariff deadline was possible if a “real deal” was close, Larry Kudlow, director of the U.S. National Economic Council, has said the White House had made no such decision.
But several sources informed about the meetings told Reuters there was little indication negotiators had made major progress on sticking points to pave the way for a potential meeting between Xi and Trump in coming weeks to hammer out a deal.
“Stalemate on the important stuff,” said one source. All of the sources requested anonymity because the talks are confidential.
“There’s still a lot of distance between parties on structural and enforcement issues,” said a second source. “I wouldn’t quite call it hitting a wall, but it’s not a field of dreams either.”
A third source told Reuters the White House was “irate” over earlier reports that the Trump administration was considering a 60-day extension of the tariff deadline.
Lighthizer and Mnuchin left their Beijing hotel on Friday afternoon without taking questions from reporters.
There were media reports that in recent meetings China has pledged to make its industrial subsidy programs compliant with World Trade Organization rules and end those that distort markets, but had offered no details of how it would do so.
U.S. negotiators greeted the offer with skepticism, in part because China has long refused to disclose its subsidies.
And some in U.S. industry have been unimpressed with the extent of other reported Chinese offers to address U.S. concerns, such as Beijing’s proposal to increase purchases of U.S. semiconductors to $200 billion over six years.