Analysis: The view from Beijing

Experts hope two sides can find way out of impasse

Differences between the countries are great, but US and China need each other's markets

China has given a positive spin to an economic dialogue with the United States that essentially ended in an impasse, saying that both sides had agreed to work together to reduce their trade imbalance.

The US has been running a massive trade deficit with China, which reached US$347 billion (S$475 billion) last year, and President Donald Trump had threatened to impose huge tariffs on Chinese goods and label China a currency manipulator, during his election campaign last year.

Mr Trump's meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in April brought down trade tensions and concerns of a possible trade war, with both sides agreeing to a 100-day economic action plan that has led to the resumption of the export of American beef to China, among other things.

However, Wednesday's Comprehensive Economic Dialogue ended with the cancellation of press conferences, with each side issuing its own statement.

The Chinese statement acknowledged "significant progress" on the 100-day talks, and said the two sides agreed to work constructively together to address the trade imbalance, according to state news agency Xinhua.

The two sides also discussed a one-year action plan that would see cooperation in areas such as finance, trade, investment and global economic governance.

 

Separately, Chinese Vice-Minister for Finance Zhu Guangyao told media in Washington that both sides "agreed that one of the solutions to address the trade imbalance is for the United States to expand its exports to China, instead of reducing imports from China".

He added that in order to address the imbalance, China has been urging the US to remove its outdated regulations on export control and increase the exports of high-tech products to China.

At a luncheon talk on Tuesday, Vice-Premier Wang Yang, who led the Chinese delegation to the dialogue, had pointed out that China's import of integrated circuits hit US$227 billion last year, but only 4 per cent of that came from the US.

He added that if the US were to liberalise its export barriers against China to the same level as those for France, the US trade deficit with China would drop by up to 34 per cent, citing a report by US think-tank Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Chinese analysts said the lack of results from the dialogue was expected as differences between the two sides were great and this was just the first round of talks.

Tsinghua University economist Yuan Gangming believed China will make concessions to the US to ease tensions. "If it does not do so, the situation will return to the beginning when Mr Trump wanted to fight a trade war with China, which is very detrimental to China," he said.

Both sides would go through a period of haggling and, as they seek agreement, China would be hoping that the price it pays would be as low as possible, he added.

Professor Cao Heping of Peking University, on the other hand, thought the two sides would find a way out of their impasse because they need each other's markets.

China and the US are each other's largest trading partner.

"The two sides are inevitably linked to each other," he said.

The US economy may be recovering, but this recovery is fragile and needs a good international economic environment, he added.

"China is an important trade partner, it would be mad to drive away this partner," he said.

In the words of Mr Wang at the start of the talks on Wednesday: "Dialogue cannot immediately address all differences, but confrontation will immediately damage the interests of both."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2017, with the headline 'Experts hope two sides can find way out of impasse'. Print Edition | Subscribe