Thursday 13 December 2018

China silent over pledged action to resolve US trade impasse

Conflicting reports have emerged about what Xi Jinping and Donald Trump discussed during the G20 meeting in Argentina.

China’s President Xi Jinping (AP)
China’s President Xi Jinping (AP)

By Joe McDonald

China has agreed to a ceasefire in its trade war with Washington but gave no details that might help dispel confusion about what presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump agreed to at the G20 meeting in Argentina.

Beijing has yet to confirm Mr Trump’s claim that China promised to cut car tariffs and immediately buy more American farm goods.

Confusing and conflicting statements by Mr Trump and US officials, coupled with a lack of Chinese confirmation, led to stock markets tumbling on Tuesday amid doubts about the chances for a final settlement of a fight over technology that threatens to chill global economic growth.

“China will start from implementing specific issues on which consensus has been reached, and the sooner, the better,” Beijing’s ministry of commerce said on its website.

The two sides have a “clear timetable and road map” for talks, the ministry statement said, but gave no details.

The Chinese silence has prompted questions about what Mr Trump said was a promise by Beijing to buy more American goods and negotiate over US complaints that it steals American technology.

Stock markets rose on Monday after US officials touted the agreement as a historic breakthrough.

But on Tuesday, they fell back after Mr Trump called himself “Tariff Man” on Twitter and renewed threats of tariff hikes.

Ma Hong, a trade expert at Tsinghua University’s School of Economics and Management, said companies and financial markets should not read too much into China’s delay in talking.

Mr Ma said he had no information about government thinking but said Beijing was justified in moving carefully on a matter that involved complex and contentious details.

The delay “isn’t a sign of rejection, but of cautiousness,” he said.

“The United States has put forward many demands, not all of them reasonable.

“It will proceed as planned, step by step, not based on the rhythm of the United States.”

Press Association

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