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China, US hold 'constructive' call on trade mini-deal

Senior Chinese and US officials again sent positive signals on Friday about their efforts to formalise the partial trade bargain announced last month.

[WASHINGTON] Senior Chinese and US officials again sent positive signals on Friday about their efforts to formalise the partial trade bargain announced last month, with US President Donald Trump saying he may meet with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in the state of Iowa.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He on Friday spoke by telephone with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a call both sides described as "constructive".

However, details remain scarce and the positive statements were almost identical to those made last week, even though Mr Trump announced the partial deal on Oct 11.

Mr Trump had planned to sign a deal with Mr Xi on the sidelines of the now-cancelled summit in Chile this month.

On Friday, Mr Trump told reporters he was "looking (at) a different couple locations" for a meeting with Mr Xi, adding that it "could even be in Iowa". The rural state in America's heartland was the first place Mr Xi ever visited in the US, when he came to the country in 1985 to study farming technology.

Mr Trump noted that negotiations are "moving along" and "our deal's going along fine with China" but stressed repeatedly that he didn't want to give more details until the agreement was finalised.

The office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) said in a statement on Friday that negotiators had "made progress in a variety of areas and are in the process of resolving outstanding issues".

"Discussions will continue at the deputy level."

In Beijing, China's Commerce Ministry said the two sides discussed "properly addressing their core concerns and reached consensus on principles" and "discussed arrangements for the next consultations".

Earlier Friday, top White House economic aide Larry Kudlow hailed the steps made in the talks.

"The deal is not complete but we've made enormous progress," Mr Kudlow told reporters.

He said the discussions are nearly complete on currency, financial services, dealing with removing restrictions on majority foreign ownership of companies in China, and opening markets to US agriculture exports.


Other issues like protecting US intellectual property and stopping forced technology transfer likely will wait until "phase two", Mr Kudlow said.

The upbeat remarks reaffirmed Washington's hopeful message on trade with Beijing after a week in which the two sides exchanged a salvo of confrontational remarks.

Wall Street shuddered on Thursday after Bloomberg reported that Chinese officials were skeptical of reaching a long-term trade deal with Washington.

Mr Trump three weeks ago hailed a "very substantial phase one" accord with Beijing, which he said would cover key areas and include a committment for a massive increase in US farm exports.

After a lengthy boycott, China has resumed some purchases of US agricultural goods but demand among may not support the huge increases that Mr Trump expects.

But hopes for a signing ceremony at the Nov 16-17 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Santiago were sidelined after the event was cancelled due to civil unrest.

Earlier in the week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a speech calling China "truly hostile" to the US while Beijing accused Washington of "viciously attacking" China.

Meanwhile, in a separate dispute dating from long before the Trump administration, the World Trade Organization on Friday authorised China to slap tariffs on US$3.6 billion in American exports in a dispute over US anti-dumping practices.

The two sides have put tariffs on virtually all of their half trillion dollars in annual two-way goods trade, but last month signalled a truce as Mr Trump held off on some duty rate increases.

The trade war is slowing global growth, economists say, and data shows it is cutting into the US manufacturing sector and chilling business investment.


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