China Vows Quick Trade Moves as U.S. Sends Mixed Sig­nals


BEI­JING (Dis­patches) - China vowed Wed­nes­day to move swiftly to strike a trade con­sen­sus with the United States, even as mixed sig­nals on the de­tente from self-de­scribed “Tar­iff Man” Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion upset global mar­kets.

Trump sowed more con­fu­sion as he opened the door to length­ier ne­go­ti­a­tions with China, sug­gest­ing that they could ex­tend beyond a 90-day dead­line to reach a deal to avoid a mas­sive tar­iff in­crease.

But the Chi­nese com­merce min­istry said ne­go­tia­tors will “ac­tively push for­ward ne­go­ti­a­tions within 90 days in ac­cor­dance with a clear timetable and roadmap” -- mark­ing Bei­jing’s first pub­lic ac­knowl­edge­ment of the dead­line an­nounced by the U.S. at the week­end.

The min­istry lauded Trump’s talks with Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping at the week­end as “suc­cess­ful” and said it was “con­fi­dent” that their agree­ment will be im­ple­mented.

The min­istry vowed to start im­ple­ment­ing “spe­cific mat­ters” that were agreed -- say­ing “the sooner the bet­ter” -- but it did not pro­vide any de­tails.

Trump and Xi agreed on a trade war truce on the side­lines of a G20 sum­mit in Ar­gentina on Satur­day, hold­ing off on new tar­iffs and giv­ing ne­go­tia­tors three months to reach an agree­ment.

China pledged to buy more from the United States and the White House said the two sides would ne­go­ti­ate “struc­tural changes” to in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty pro­tec­tion, but few de­tails and no dol­lar amounts were dis­closed.

Adding to the con­fu­sion, the U.S. leader in­di­cated on Tues­day that the talks could go beyond the March 1 dead­line.

“The ne­go­ti­a­tions with China have al­ready started. Un­less ex­tended, they will end 90 days from the date of our won­der­ful and very warm din­ner with Pres­i­dent Xi in Ar­gentina,” Trump tweeted.

But the U.S. leader kept up the threats as he warned that he was ready to make China “pay for the priv­i­lege” of selling in the U.S. mar­ket if the ne­go­ti­a­tions fail.

While he said he would “hap­pily sign” a fair deal that ad­dresses US con­cerns, he warned: “re­mem­ber, I am a Tar­iff Man.”

The change in tone and the in­creased con­fu­sion over what was achieved at the meet­ing con­trib­uted to a sharp de­cline in the U.S. stock mar­ket, which plunged on Tues­day, driven lower by trade wor­ries and fears for fu­ture U.S. eco­nomic growth. Chi­nese shares also opened lower on Wed­nes­day.

As part of the truce, Trump agreed to hold off on plans to raise the tar­iffs on $200 bil­lion in Chi­nese im­ports to 25 per­cent be­gin­ning Jan­uary 1, leav­ing them at the cur­rent 10 per­cent rate.

The tone of Trump’s lat­est tweets show an ap­par­ent shift from 24 hours ear­lier, when he was un­re­servedly tri­umphant, say­ing re­la­tions with China had taken a “BIG leap for­ward.”

On Tues­day, he said U.S. Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Robert Lighthizer would lead the talks to see “whether or not a REAL deal with China is ac­tu­ally pos­si­ble.”

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