Bei­jing ac­knowl­edges a 90-day trade truce but gives no time­line or spe­cific terms.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By Robyn Dixon and Don Lee

BEI­JING — The few words of­fered by China’s Min­istry of Com­merce on Wed­nes­day about a deal with the United States to tem­po­rar­ily sus­pend tar­iff in­creases ex­pressed con­fi­dence but pro­vided lit­tle clar­ity on just what Pres­i­dent Trump and Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping ne­go­ti­ated at a week­end din­ner.

“It was a very suc­cess­ful meet­ing, and we are very con­fi­dent in the im­ple­men­ta­tion,” a Min­istry of Com­merce spokesman said in a brief state­ment posted on the agency’s web­site.

The un­named spokesman’s re­marks ac­knowl­edged for the first time that the cease­fire was set at 90 days, but they did not in­di­cate when that would start and end. And the state­ment of­fered few hints on what China would do to sat­isfy the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s con­cerns about China’s mer­can­tilist eco­nomic prac­tices.

In­vestors ini­tially re­acted with en­thu­si­asm af­ter the Satur­day meet­ing that fol­lowed the Group of 20 sum­mit in Buenos Aires and

news that Trump and Xi had agreed to a truce in an es­ca­lat­ing trade con­flict, which has cast a pall over the U.S. and global economies. But the two sides did not put out a joint state­ment, and conf lict­ing state­ments and a lack of de­tails from China since then have raised con­cerns about the out­look for ne­go­ti­a­tions.

On Tues­day, af­ter Trump went on Twitter and called him­self “a Tar­iff Man,” stock mar­kets fell sharply. Mar­kets were closed Wed­nes­day in the United States to honor the death of Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush.

In an early-morn­ing se­ries of tweets Wed­nes­day, Trump again in­sisted his meet­ing with Xi was a success, de­spite crit­i­cisms from some corners that he had fallen for Chi­nese delay tac­tics by agree­ing to hold off on ratch­et­ing up tar­iffs on $200 bil­lion of Chi­nese goods Jan. 1 to 25% from the cur­rent 10% rate.

“Very strong sig­nals be­ing sent by China once they re­turned home from their long trip, in­clud­ing stops, from Ar­gentina,” Trump wrote. “Not to sound naive or any­thing, but I be­lieve Pres­i­dent Xi meant ev­ery word of what he said at our long and hope­fully his­toric meet­ing. ALL sub­jects dis­cussed!”

The White House said in a state­ment Satur­day that the tar­iff in­crease would take ef­fect in 90 days if ne­go­ti­a­tions fail to pro­duce a deal on im­por­tant is­sues such as mar­ket bar­ri­ers, forced tech­nol­ogy trans­fers and cy­berthefts.

It said China would buy a “very sub­stan­tial amount of agri­cul­tural, en­ergy, in­dus­trial and other prod­uct” to ad­dress the large trade im­bal­ance be­tween the two coun­tries.

The next day, Trump tweeted that Bei­jing also “has agreed to re­duce and re­move tar­iffs on cars com­ing into China from the U.S.”

But the of­fi­cial Chi­nese ac­count of the agree­ment has been much more gen­eral. It made no men­tion of spe­cific prod­ucts that China would buy from the United States, or about cut­ting the cur­rent 40% tar­iff on im­ported Amer­i­can cars. And it was only Wed­nes­day that Bei­jing of­fi­cially noted that there was a timetable for the truce.

The Trump ad­min­is­trathe tion, for its part, has only added to the con­fu­sion. Trump’s top eco­nomic advisor, Larry Kud­low, who was at the din­ner meet­ing, said Mon­day that the 90-day de­fer­ral of higher tar­iffs would start Jan. 1, mean­ing the two sides would have at least un­til the end of March be­fore Trump boosted the puni­tive taxes. But later that day the White House said the 90-day clock be­gan Dec. 1.

Kud­low and other ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials also could not con­firm any spe­cific deal that had been reached on car tar­iffs. This sum­mer China re­duced its im­port tar­iffs on cars to 15% from 25%, but bumped it up to 40% for Amer­i­can au­tos in re­tal­i­a­tion for new U.S. tar­iffs.

From the China side, one pos­si­ble rea­son for the lack of de­tail is that Xi has been over­seas, com­plet­ing a state visit in Por­tu­gal.

The Min­istry of Com­merce spokesman, in an­swer­ing a reporter’s ques­tion, said Wed­nes­day that there had been con­sen­sus be­tween Trump and Xi on cer­tain is­sues and that China would move ahead, “the sooner the bet­ter,” but did not elab­o­rate.

“Both teams will fol­low a very clear timetable and road map, to ac­tively pro­mote the con­sul­ta­tion within 90 days.”

Sep­a­rately, a spokesman for China’s Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs also ex­pressed hopes of a deal to end the trade war.

“We hope the two work­ing teams from both sides can, based on the con­sen­sus reached be­tween the two coun­tries’ lead­ers, strengthen con­sul­ta­tions and reach a mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial agree­ment soon,” spokesman Geng Shuang told re­porters Wed­nes­day.

Geng also in­di­cated that Chi­nese gov­ern­ment agen­cies had adopted an or­der to strengthen pun­ish­ment for in­fring­ing on in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty.

Chi­nese theft of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty has been a long-run­ning com­plaint from the United States and other coun­tries. The or­der was dated Nov. 21 but re­leased only this week, ac­cord­ing to the for­eign min­istry. Geng would not say whether the tim­ing had any­thing to do with the TrumpXi meet­ing.

Some re­ports emerged Wed­nes­day sug­gest­ing that China may be ready to move ahead with some trade con­ces­sions.

The South China Morn­ing Post in Hong Kong re­ported that Chi­nese of­fi­cials were pre­par­ing to re­sume im­ports of U.S. soy­beans and liq­ue­fied petroleum gas — some­thing Trump took note of Wed­nes­day on Twitter.

Reuters re­ported Chi­nese state-owned oil trad­ing firm Unipec would re­sume im­ports of U.S. oil by March, also cit­ing un­named sources.

Such mea­sures might be seen as good-faith ges­tures as ne­go­ti­a­tions un­fold, but would not meet Wash­ing­ton’s de­mands for broad changes to China’s in­dus­trial pol­icy, in­clud­ing its state sup­port for key high­tech in­dus­trial firms and forced trans­fers of tech­nol­ogy by U.S. com­pa­nies do­ing busi­ness in China.

China’s Made in China 2025 plan — Xi’s am­bi­tious pol­icy to see China emerge as a global leader in key high­tech in­dus­tries — is per­ceived in Wash­ing­ton as a threat to the United States’ global power, as is his Belt and Road in­fras­truc­ture ini­tia­tive that has ex­tended China’s reach across the world as it of­fers loans and un­der­writes build­ing projects in dozens of na­tions.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais As­so­ci­ated Press

CHI­NESE Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, left, and Pres­i­dent Trump meet over din­ner af­ter the Group of 20 sum­mit in Buenos Aires on Dec. 1.

Vin­cent Yu As­so­ci­ated Press

STOCK mar­kets slid Tues­day af­ter Trump tweeted that he’s “a Tar­iff Man.” Above, a Hong Kong bank.

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