US, China wrap up talks on tariff battle

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The Chinese Ministry of Commerce issued a statement saying the two sides had "detailed exchanges" and would "maintain close contact" but gave no details.

The talk has enhanced mutual understanding and laid a foundation for addressing each other's concerns, it said.

It's a tight window in which to nail down deep changes to China's economic model, some of which past USA administrations advocated for years and US lawmakers on both sides of the aisle support. Trump has said he would increase those duties to 25 percent from 10 percent now if no deal is reached by March 2, and has threatened to tax all imports from China if Beijing fails to cede to United States demands.

The full year numbers will look somewhat different, partly because China has resumed purchases of US soybeans and other goods.

Most Asian markets opened lower after the talks wrapped up the day before without clear indications of whether progress was made on resolving a dispute over Chinese technology policies that has the world's two biggest economies embroiled in a bruising trade war.

The trade talks are the result of an agreement last month between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping to stop the tit-for-tat tariff conflict between the two countries for 90 days starting on New Year's Day. Reuters reported that both parties showed further signs of progress on issues including the purchases of USA farm and energy commodities, as well as greater access to Chinese markets.

But a statement released earlier by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) said the talks were held with "a view to achieving needed structural changes in China with respect to forced technology transfer, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers, cyber intrusions and cyber theft of trade secrets for commercial purposes, services, and agriculture".

"These issues are much more hard to solve immediately but are, frankly, much more compelling to US companies", said Jake Parker, vice president for China operations of the US-China Business Council, which represents American companies that do business with China. Without a breakthrough in talks, USA corporations are likely to experience a deepening decline in their Chinese sales, with Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts even seeing an "informal boycott" in place.

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"Negotiations between the two sides in this area made progress", he said.

Additionally, the US and China will meet for a third day on Wednesday.

Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen headed the vice ministerial level talks for China, though Vice Premier Liu He, a top economic adviser to Xi, made an appearance at a meeting on Monday. Lu said he had no details and an official statement would be issued later.

The talks were the first face-to-face meeting between the two sides since their leaders met on December 1.

She added that the Trump administration's complaint that China is stealing US intellectual property is "top of mind" in the negotiations with Beijing.

Almost halfway into the 90-day truce, there have been few concrete details on progress made so far.

Chinese exports to the US have held up despite tariff increases of up to 25 percent on $250 billion of Chinese imports, partly due to exporters rushing to fill orders before more increases hit.

If talks continue to go well, a cabinet-level meeting is likely to happen before the end of the month.

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