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Beijing open to more trade negotiations

By JING SHUIYU,REN XIAOJIN | China Daily | Updated: 2018-12-21 03:56

Meetings, phone calls with Washington may be arranged based on progress

The Ministry of Commerce confirmed a plan for more trade talks with the United States in January, adding that Beijing continues to make positive gestures.

Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said at a weekly briefing on Thursday in Beijing that there were plans to hold further talks on trade with the US, and the two sides have been in close contact.

"The two sides will arrange negotiations through meetings or phone calls at any time based on the progress," he said.

Commenting on the ongoing 90-day tariff truce, Gao said China appreciated the Office of the US Trade Representative's decision to postpone the effective date for possible additional tariffs until March.

"China has also lowered tariffs on imported vehicles from the US to fulfill the agreement the two sides have reached," he added. "China so far is taking progressive action and is making positive gestures," the spokesman said.

On Wednesday, China's major State-owned enterprise Sinograin announced new purchases of soybeans from the US "to implement the consensus achieved by Chinese and US heads of state".

China and the US held a vice-ministerial level telephone call on issues such as trade imbalances and intellectual property rights on Dec 19, Gao said.

The two countries' arrangement for a next round of trade talks was a "positive signal", said Wei Jianguo, a former vice-minister of commerce.

Wei said it is of great significance that the two countries have been maintaining closer contacts, and he predicted that key issues in the next talks would include trade imbalances and IP protection.

He stressed that resolving trade disputes is an "urgent task" for both sides. The US needs to cope with certain economic uncertainties like stock market fluctuations, while China needs to increase quality imports, such as airplanes and agricultural products, to meet growing domestic demand.

Shen Jianguang, chief economist at JD Finance, said that if the trade relationship between the two countries destabilizes, it can lead to problems in other areas.

"It is not easy for the two sides to reach a truce and push talks forward to avoid an escalation," Shen said.

Benjamin Shobert, a member of the National Committee on United States-China Relations, said that although the world's two largest economies are going to continue a very "challenging" relationship, he, as an American, is "much more concerned with and focused on what happens here (in the US)".

He added that: "Much of the administration's attempt to characterize America's economic problems as being entirely a byproduct of the US-China relationship is a mistake. There are significant challenges relative to technology and financial engineering that actually constitute much more significant problems for the average Americans than the US-China relationship specifically."

Nevertheless, despite all the challenges ahead for the evolving China-US partnership, Shobert said it is very possible that the two nations could manage to compete and cooperate at the same time.

Contact the writers at renxiaojin@chinadaily.com.cn

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