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Trade War

Trump hails 'tremendous success' in China talks

Trade negotiations move to ministerial level, possibly later this month

U.S. President Donald Trump spoke to reporters on Jan. 10 before heading off on a trip to the southern border.   © AP

WASHINGTON/BEIJING -- The just-concluded three-day trade talks with China were a tremendous success, U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday, setting up the next round as the two sides seek to arrive at a deal by March 1.

Speaking to reporters before departing the White House for the Mexican border, the president said, "We're negotiating and having tremendous success with China."

Approaching the halfway mark of the 90-day truce agreed to at the Dec. 1 dinner between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Argentina, officials from the two countries met in Beijing this week to discuss how to expand Chinese purchases of American goods to reduce the trade imbalance. According to a diplomatic source, the Chinese also came forward with proposed concessions concerning intellectual property and technology transfers that could bridge the gap with the U.S.

With Trump's blessing, the two sides are expected to move talks to a higher level, with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He visiting U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Washington as early as this month.

Meanwhile, Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan said Thursday that the nations should pursue a relationship based on "coordination, cooperation and stability" rather than confrontation, as he attended a reception marking the 40th anniversary of U.S.-China diplomatic relations in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan is introduced at an event commemorating the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China at Beijing's Great Hall of the People on Thursday, as U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad applauds.   © Reuters

Calling the relationship "one of the most important bilateral ties in the world, with the greatest potential," Wang called on the two sides to keep in mind the original goals of the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1979, and to manage differences through dialogue and consultations.

"No matter how the international landscape may evolve, China will insist on its own development path and will handle its affairs so that the Chinese people can live a better life," Wang added.

Following the Beijing discussions, which were extended by one day, Lighthizer's office had issued a neutral statement that addressed the topics that were discussed but passed no judgment. Trump's words are the first clear indication that the U.S. side is happy with the direction of talks.

Trump said he found China to be "far more honorable" than congressional Democratic leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who have been opposing his call to build a wall on the southern border. "I think that China is actually much easier to deal with than the opposition party," he said.

China's Ministry of Commerce said in a statement released Thursday that Washington and Beijing have established a foundation toward resolving problems of mutual interest.

Lighthizer and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are due to appear at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, which runs Jan. 22-25. There is a possibility that Liu He may attend the Davos gathering, which could lead to talks with Lighthizer there.

The last time China and the U.S. held ministerial-level talks was in June 2018, when Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross visited Beijing. In the coming discussions, the U.S. will focus on forced technology transfers and subsidies to state-owned enterprises, among other sticking points. The question will be how far China is willing to bend on these thorny structural issues.

If a resolution is not reached by March 1, the U.S. is prepared to raise tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25% from 10%. But in light of swooning stock prices, Trump seeks to end the impasse on a positive note. Both countries are also discussing having President Xi Jinping visit the U.S. for a summit if the ministerial meetings produce favorable results.

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