US Focuses on China Pledge to Buy More Goods as Trade Talks End

January 9, 2019 Updated: January 9, 2019

BEIJING/WASHINGTON—U.S.–China trade talks ended Jan. 9, with negotiators focused on Beijing’s pledge to buy “a substantial amount” of agricultural, energy, and manufactured goods and services from the United States, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office (USTR) said.

In a statement that gave no specific details on the outcome of three days of talks in China’s capital this week, USTR said that U.S. and Chinese officials discussed “ways to achieve fairness, reciprocity, and balance in trade relations.”

No schedule for further face-to-face negotiations was released, and USTR said the American delegation would return to Washington to report on the meetings and “to receive guidance on the next steps.”

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed in December to a 90-day truce in a trade war that has roiled global financial markets. After that meeting, top U.S. officials said China had made an additional $1.2 trillion in trade commitments.

But the USTR statement didn’t mention any amount of commodities, goods, and services discussed in the Beijing talks.

Trump, who has accused China and other nations of exploiting the United States in global trade, has said he will raise tariffs to 25 percent from 10 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports if no deal is reached by March 2.

Such a move would likely prompt further retaliation by China, which has already levied tariffs on U.S. goods, further rattling investors who are nervous about a significant slowdown in China’s economy.

“We’re hopeful that we can make a deal with China,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told Fox Business Network on Jan. 9. “We expect something will come out of this.”

She added that the Trump administration’s complaint that China is stealing U.S. intellectual property is “top of mind” in the negotiations with Beijing.

USTR also said the two sides discussed issues related to intellectual-property protections and the need for any agreement to include “complete implementation subject to ongoing verification and effective enforcement.”

U.S. stocks opened higher on hopes of progress toward a deal to avert an all-out trade war between the world’s two largest economies, but pared gains slightly after the USTR statement was released. Share prices jumped in Asia and Europe.

Companies in both the United States and China are feeling the pain from the effects of the U.S.-China trade dispute. Apple Inc. rattled global markets last week when it cut its sales outlook, blaming weak demand in China.

Speaking at a daily news briefing in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang confirmed both sides had agreed to extend the talks beyond Jan. 7 and 8, as originally scheduled.

Asked if that meant the talks had been difficult, Lu said: “I can only say that extending the consultations shows that the two sides were indeed very serious in conducting the consultations.”

Speaking after the conclusion of the talks, Ted McKinney, the U.S. undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs, told reporters in Beijing that he thought they “went just fine.” He added: “It’s been a good one for us.”

The extra day of talks came amid signs of progress on issues, including purchases of U.S. farm and energy commodities and increased access to China’s markets.

The U.S. team in Beijing was led by Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish, and included undersecretaries from the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, and Treasury, as well as senior officials from the White House.

Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen headed the vice ministerial-level talks for China, although Vice Premier Liu He, a top economic adviser to Xi, made an appearance at a meeting on Jan. 7.

By Michael Martina & David Lawder