China hopes for phased trade pact with US as early as possible

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BEIJING: China hopes to reach a phased agreement in a protracted trade dispute with the United States and cancel tariffs as soon as possible, the Commerce Ministry said on Thursday, adding that trade wars had no winners.

A phased agreement would help restore market confidence and reduce uncertainty, ministry spokesman Gao Feng told reporters, adding that both sides were maintaining close communication.

“The final goal of both sides’ negotiations is to end the trade war and cancel all additional tariffs,” Gao said. “This would benefit China, the US and the whole world. We hope that both sides will continue to work together, advance negotiations, and reach a phased agreement as soon as possible.”

Chinese premier Li Keqiang said both China and the United States need to resolve the issues through dialogue. He made the comments on Thursday when he met delegates led by Evan Greenberg, chairman of the US-China Business Council.

“China will create an internationalized business environment ruled by law where domestic and foreign firms are treated equally,” Li said. “Property and intellectual property rights will be strictly protected.”

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow meanwhile said he saw momentum to finalize the initial phase of a trade deal which could be signed at the APEC forum next month in Chile.

US President Donald Trump on Oct 11 outlined the first phase of a deal and suspended a threatened tariff hike, but officials on both sides said much more work needed to be done.

Trump had originally planned to proceed with a rise in tariffs to 30pc from 25pc on about $250 billion worth of Chinese goods last week. But the US administration has yet to make a decision on how to address planned 10pc tariffs on roughly $156 billion of Chinese goods due to take effect on Dec 15.

US and Chinese trade negotiators are working on nailing down a Phase 1 trade deal text for their presidents to sign next month, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday.

Mnuchin said the Trump administration’s “objective” was for the agreement to be signed between the presidents of the two countries at a Nov 16-17 summit of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation countries in Santiago, Chile.

Working-level representatives from both countries were working on specifics of an agreement now, Gao said.

There have been positive signs from China in recent days.

China’s securities regulator on Friday unveiled a firm timetable for scrapping foreign ownership limits in futures, securities and mutual fund companies for the first time. Increasing foreign access to the sector is among the U.S. demands at the trade talks.

A day before, the US Department of Agriculture confirmed net sales of 142,172 tonnes of US pork to China in the week ended Oct 3, the largest weekly sale to the world’s top pork market on record.

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