China says negotiators discussed purchases of U.S. agricultural goods

01, Aug. 2019

SHANGHAI, Kyodo - China and the United States discussed China's growing purchases of U.S. agricultural products and the United States committed to creating favorable conditions for such purchases during the ministerial-level trade talks that took place in Shanghai on Tuesday and Wednesday, Chinese state media said.

The two sides concluded the latest round of trade talks with plans to resume negotiations in September, this time in the United States.

This was the first formal sit-down between the two negotiating teams after last month's announcement of a truce in the U.S.-China trade war on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan.

After arriving in Shanghai on Tuesday, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had dinner with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He at a hotel.

Washington has been recently considering easing a trade ban on Chinese telecommunication giant Huawei Technologies Co., which it imposed based on a threat to national security, and Beijing has moved to boost purchases of U.S. farm goods, indicating the two sides may make some concessions.

But U.S. President Donald Trump slammed China in a series of tweets on Tuesday just as the two sides sat down for a dinner to restart the trade negotiations.

“China is doing very badly, worst year in 27 - was supposed to start buying our agricultural product now - no signs that they are doing so,” Trump tweeted Tuesday.

“My team is negotiating with them now, but they always change the deal in the end to their benefit,” he added. “Trumps got China back on its heels, and the United States is doing great.”

In regards to Trump's tweets, “I can only laugh,” said China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying at a regular press briefing on Wednesday.

She refuted Trump's claims against the Chinese economy, citing China's second-quarter economic growth rate of 6.2 percent in comparison to the 2.1 percent expansion in the United States.

As for the on-going trade negotiations, “the U.S. is the one that flip flopped in the year-long process. China has been consistent,” Hua said.

“I believe tactics like laying smoke screens and applying maximum pressure are not constructive at all” amid ongoing negotiations, Hua added.

So far, Washington has imposed 25 percent levies on a total of $250 billion worth of Chinese imports in response to Beijing's alleged theft of intellectual property and technology. China has retaliated by slapping duties on $110 billion worth of goods from the United States.

The Trump administration has also decided to hold off on imposing additional tariffs on Chinese imports.

Meanwhile, Trump, who has pursued trade protectionist policies as part of an “America First” agenda, has put pressure on China to take steps to curb its massive trade surplus with the United States.

Political experts say achievements in trade negotiations have become increasingly important for Trump, as he has officially kicked off his 2020 re-election campaign.

Trump, taking the position that he would win another term, warned China in his tweets that if they pursue a strategy of waiting for a Democratic candidate to replace him in the upcoming election, “the deal that they get will be much tougher than what we are negotiating now.” (Kyodo)