BEIJING (Reuters) – China will strive to reach an initial trade agreement with the United States as both sides keep the channels of communication open, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said on Thursday, in an effort to reduce fears that talks could be stirring.
FILE PHOTO: China Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng attends a news conference at the Ministry of Commerce in Beijing, China, June 19, 2018. REUTERS / Thomas Peter / File Photo
China is willing to work with the United States to solve each other's fundamentals concerns based on equality and mutual respect, and will try hard to reach a "phase one" agreement, Gao Feng, spokesman for the ministry, told reporters.
"This is in line with the interests of both China and the United States and the world," Gao said.
Economists warn that the protracted trade dispute between China and the United States increases the risk to the global economy by disrupting supply chains, discouraging investment and dampening business confidence.
Implementing a phase a deal could slip into next year, trade experts and people near the White House told Reuters earlier, as Beijing is pushing for more comprehensive tolls and US administration jobs with increased demands from themselves.
Beijing officials had suggested that Chinese President Xi Jinping and US counterpart Donald Trump could sign an agreement in early December.
Some experts said the next date to look at was December 15, when US tariffs for about $ 156 billion in Chinese goods were put into effect, including holiday gift items such as electronics and Christmas decorations.
In a dinner address in Beijing on Wednesday, Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Liu Han said he was "cautiously optimistic" on a phase one agreement, Bloomberg News said, citing people attending the event in front of a forum organized by Bloomberg LP.
Liu, China's main negotiator in the trade talks, separately told one of the attendees that he was "confused" about US requirements, but was confident that the first phase of an agreement could still be completed, Bloomberg added.
Gao, when asked about breakpoints and whether they were related to Washington's demand for China to buy more US farm goods and tolls, said he had no more information to disclose that both parties would continue to communicate, and " the rumors are not accurate. "
A former Chinese trade minister told Reuters that both sides should return to the time when the trade war first started.
"We should return to the place of origin and cancel all tariffs," Wei Jianguo said on the sidelines of the Bloomberg Forum.
Wei said he was hopeful for a phase one pact, in light of the pressure on both the US and Chinese economies as the trade war continued.
"Now Trump himself is aware of the needs of the (upcoming US) election, and the US economy has also suffered huge losses," he said.
"Under such circumstances, it is quite possible to reach a phased agreement."
HONG KONG ISSUE
A new series between Washington and Beijing on US law on Hong Kong has also threatened to undermine their trade talks and postpone a deal that investors had first hoped to sign.
U.S. The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed two bills to support protesters in Hong Kong and send a warning to China about human rights, with Trump expected to sign them into law.
The measure, which has angered Beijing, will require the Foreign Ministry to certify at least once a year that Hong Kong retains enough autonomy to qualify for the special US trade assessment that helped it become a world-centered financial center.
It would also provide for sanctions against officials responsible for human rights violations in the Chinese-controlled city.
"We urge the US side to stop this activity, stop before it is too late, and take measures to prevent these measures from getting legal, stop interfering with Hong Kong's affairs and China's affairs," Geng Shuang said , spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
"If they have to insist on going this wrong way, China will take strong countermeasures," Geng told reporters at a regular briefing on Thursday.
Protesters have protested for months in the streets of Hong Kong amid mounting violence and fears that Beijing will step up its response to stop civil disobedience.
Trump has 10 days, except Sundays, to sign a bill passed by Congress, unless he chooses to use his veto.
On Thursday, the ruling Chinese Communist Party's main newspaper, People's Daily, urged the United States to "restrain the horse at the edge of the cliff" and stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs.
"If the US side sticks to the course, the Chinese side will inevitably take powerful measures to take resolute revenge, and all the consequences will be borne by the United States," a front page editorial states.
Reporting by Stella Qiu and Ryan Woo; Further reporting by Yawen Chen and Cate Cadell; Editing by Kim Coghill and Mark Potter