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US and China close to reaching major trade deal: report
[NEW YORK] The United States and China are close to reaching a major trade deal that would see both sides lower some of the tariffs imposed during an often-bitter trade war, a report said Sunday.
Negotiators for the two sides have made substantial progress and a final accord is close to being hammered out, according to the Wall Street Journal, which quoted anonymous sources on both sides.
A deal would be welcomed by financial markets, which have suffered through the often-rancorous trade conflict between the world's two largest economic powers.
The Journal said talks last month in Washington had helped narrow differences, meaning a formal agreement might be ready when President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping meet in late March while Xi is on a European trip.
It stressed, however, that some hurdles remain, and that the pact will likely spark complaints on both sides that too much has been given away.
The report said China had tentatively agreed to lower tariffs or ease restrictions on farm, chemical and auto products, among others.
Chinese negotiators have also offered to speed up the timetable for removing foreign-ownership limits on car ventures and to reduce tariffs on imported vehicles to below the current 15 percent rate, according to the Journal.
In a move meant to respond to Mr Trump's repeated demands for a narrowing of America's trade gap with China, Beijing would also increase its purchases of US goods, including a possible multi-billion-dollar buys of natural gas from the Cheniere Energy group.
In exchange for Chinese concessions, Washington would do away with most of the trade sanctions it imposed last year, the report said.
The paper quoted analysts as saying that the failure of Mr Trump's recent summit talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi could affect the trade talks in one of two opposite ways.
It could persuade Beijing that Mr Trump is desperate for a win, or China might take it as a sign that Mr Trump, as his advisors say, is willing to walk away from a bad deal.
The year-long tit-for-tat trade war has imposed punishing tariffs totaling many billions of dollars on a large portion of the trade between the two economic powers.