China Offers to Ramp Up US Imports: Bloomberg

January 18, 2019 Updated: January 18, 2019

China has offered to go on a six-year buying spree to ramp up imports from the United States in order to reconfigure the relation between the two countries, Bloomberg reported on Jan. 18, citing people familiar with the matter.

By raising annual goods imports from the United States by a combined value of more than $1 trillion, China would seek to reduce its trade surplus, which last year stood at $323 billion, to zero by 2024, one of the people told Bloomberg.

It was unclear how the offer differed from what China pledged when U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met in Buones Aires in December 2018. At that meeting, China offered more than $1.2 trillion in additional commitments on trade, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said.

Reuters reported on Jan. 9 that U.S. officials used three days of trade talks with Chinese counterparts in Beijing to demand more details on China’s pledge to make big purchases of American goods. China offered similar commitments, albeit on a smaller scale, during talks in Washington last May.

The Bloomberg report on Friday helped drive a rally on Wall Street where main stock indexes were on track for their fourth week of gains, in part on hopes the United States and China would strike a deal to end a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies. The two sides have imposed tit-for-tat tariffs that have disrupted hundreds of billions of dollars of commerce.

While increased purchases of U.S. goods have been part of the talks, American negotiators have also focused on issues that would require structural change in China. Those include finding ways to end the misappropriation of intellectual property from U.S. companies and halting industrial subsidies.

Halfway through a 90-day truce in the U.S.-China trade war agreed to on Dec. 1 when Trump and Xi met during the G20 summit in Argentina, there have been few details provided of any progress made. On Tuesday, a Republican senator said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer had told him he had seen no progress on structural issues.

Data on Monday showed China’s exports unexpectedly fell the most in two years in December and imports also contracted, pointing to further weakness in the world’s second-largest economy in 2019 and deteriorating global demand.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin discussed lifting some or all tariffs imposed on Chinese imports and suggested offering a tariff rollback during trade discussions scheduled for Jan. 30.

Lighthizer has resisted the idea, and the proposal had not yet been introduced to Trump, according to the Journal.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will visit the United States on Jan. 30 and 31 for the latest round of trade talks aimed at resolving the bitter trade dispute. The Trump administration is scheduled to increase tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25 percent on March 2 from 10 percent.

The Trump administration has urged China to take steps to protect U.S. intellectual property, end policies that force American companies to turn over technology to a Chinese partner, allow more market access for U.S. businesses and reduce other non-tariff barriers to American products.

By Rishika Chatterjee & Nick Zieminski 

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