China, US made 'concrete progress' towards trade war deal in Washington, Vice-Premier Liu He says

South China Morning Post Dipublikasikan 13.10, 19/10/2019
China, US made 'concrete progress' towards trade war deal in Washington, Vice-Premier Liu He says

China and the United States made "concrete progress" in many areas during their latest round of talks to resolve the trade war, but negotiations must be on an equal basis, Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He said on Saturday.

In his first public comments about the talks in Washington which ended on October 11, Liu said the two sides had built an important foundation for the signing of a "phased deal".

China would work with the US on the basis of "equality and mutual respect" to address each other's core concerns, he said, adding that preventing an escalation of the trade war would be good for both nations and the world as a whole.

"The two sides have made substantial progress in many fields, laying an important foundation for the signing of a phased agreement," he said at a virtual reality conference in Nanchang, in eastern China's Jiangxi province.

"China will work with the United States on the basis of equal and mutual respect to address each other's core concerns."

Liu is China's lead negotiator in the talks and met US President Donald Trump at the White House last week. During their meeting, Trump said the two sides had reached a "substantial phase one deal".

The agreement would take three to five weeks to draw up, and work on a second phase would begin as soon as the first was signed, Trump said, adding that the deal might be ratified by himself and Chinese President Xi Jinping during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) leaders' meeting in Chile in mid-November.

Chinese state media were initially cautious after the talks, warning of uncertainties ahead but the media and officials later played up progress, saying both sides were working to resolve the trade war.

A commentary by Taoran Notes, affiliated with state-run Economic Daily, said Liu's remarks suggested that a phased deal was in the works.

But Liu's emphasis on equality and mutual respect indicated Beijing was aware of mounting calls in the US for a tougher approach to China to push the two nations to decouple and the trade war to continue, the commentary said.

"This point (about equality and mutual respect) is very important from now until the signing of a phased deal," it said.

Despite Beijing and Washington both expressing optimism about prospects for negotiations, some elements of the deal, such as the enforcement mechanism, remain unclear.

Joerg Wuttke, president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, said that with the initial agreement the two countries were starting with "super light" issues to rebuild trust before moving to more profound conflicts.

Wuttke said China and the US were at odds in a range of areas, from technology to personal exchanges, and "trade seems to be the most minor of those conflicts".

"(A technology war could) possibly be far more severe and far more sustainable, unfortunately," he said.

"We have to see if they could hammer out a paper which has any sort of substance."

Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng said on Thursday that Chinese officials were working closely with their US counterparts on the text for the agreement and had already begun discussions on the second stage.

The further opening up of China's financial services market would be an element of the first phase of the deal, while the issue of technology transfers would be addressed in the second, he said.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday that there had been no invitation from Beijing for another high-level meeting with Liu, but that deputies from the two sides would hold phone conferences this week.

Trump's "objective" was for an agreement to be signed during the Apec summit, he said.

After the Washington talks, the US postponed its plan to raise its tariffs on US$250 billion worth of Chinese goods by 5 percentage points to 30 per cent, but did not say if a new 10 per cent tariff on US$156 billion worth of Chinese products would be introduced as planned on December 15.

Also on Saturday, Liu played down concerns over the recent volatility in China's economy, saying it was "resilient" and that the government had ample policy tools to ensure it achieved its growth targets.

The economy was undergoing "profound structural adjustments and rebalancing" while moving away from a rapid growth model towards a more measured expansion, he said.

China's gross domestic product rose 6 per cent in the third quarter of the year, its slowest rate since records began in 1992.

Despite those figures, Liu said China's rapidly expanding middle class was becoming an important force in driving economic growth both at home and around the world.

In the field of virtual reality he said the government would improve intellectual property protection, especially for small- and medium-sized enterprises, and encourage the "most advanced companies, the most active investors and the most innovative people" to engage in the sector.

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