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China, US reach agreements on trade; differences remain

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A Chinese vice premier and the visiting US delegation have reached some agreements at meetings in Beijing on Thursday and Friday, but huge differences remain on some issues, and experts said the meetings are a positive sign, with US sincerity the key to avoiding a trade war. 

Vice Premier Liu He, also a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, and a US delegation led by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin ended their economic and trade consultations in Beijing on Friday, and both sides agreed to set up a work mechanism to maintain close communication, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The report said the discussions were "straightforward, efficient and constructive." Both sides agreed that sound and stable trade relations are highly important for both countries, and agreed to make efforts to solve problems through dialogue and consultations.

The negotiations did not break down as many observers had expected, which is good, Wu Xinbo, director of Fudan University's Center for American Studies, told the Global Times on Friday.

"Previously, the US unilaterally imposed pressure on China, but now both sides agreed to solve problems by communicating, which is an important step," and China will likely send its team to the US as well, Wu noted.

The US delegation is heading back to the US, a US official told Reuters Friday evening. The Americans have yet to give their account of the talks. 

"We are having very good conversations," Mnuchin told reporters earlier on Friday as he left his hotel.

China and the US have agreed on issues such as "increasing US exports to China, bilateral service trade, mutual investments, protecting intellectual property, and resolving tariff and non-tariff measures." Both sides admit that huge differences still remain on some issues, and will continue to seek further progress, Xinhua reported.

"Trade frictions were caused by unilateral actions by the US which violated international rules, and China's previous responses were based on international rules. Although the US delegation included several hardliners, China still welcomes the communication and agreements, which shows China was sincere in avoiding a trade war," Diao Daming, a US studies expert and an associate professor at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Friday.

The members of the US delegation also included Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Larry Kudlow, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Peter Navarro, Assistant to the President for Trade and Manufacturing Policy.

"Talk is always better than no talk, because either side will know what the other is thinking, and identify the differences. The two sides cannot immediately solve all problems, but will show they are responsible if they head in the same direction," Diao said. 

Maintaining sincerity  

China lodged solemn representations with the US concerning the ZTE case during the meetings, a spokesperson with China's Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) said Friday at a press briefing, according to the MOFCOM's official website.

The US side said they attach importance to China's representations and will relay China's stance to the US president, the spokesperson said.

"China and the US have reached some agreements, but no further details have been released. A breakthrough in the key differences, such as those affecting the high-tech industry, is unlikely to be achieved at this stage," Wu noted.

"There are only two directions for China and the US in the next stage: keep negotiating and hold consultations to avoid a trade war, or engage in a trade war with no winner. The key is whether the US will continue to be sincere," Diao said.



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