US-China trade talks end after three days of 'arduous' negotiations

US under secretary of agriculture for trade and foreign agricultural affairs Ted McKinney (right) returns to his hotel after the second day of trade talks in Beijing on Jan 8, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING - Trade talks between the United States and China ended on a positive note on Wednesday (Jan 9) after three days of intense negotiations.

Officials from both countries were reportedly in consultation on a coordinated statement of the discussions, expected to be released publicly on Thursday morning.

Both sides have otherwise not made any official statements on the outcome of the talks.

In a Twitter post, Mr Hu Xijin, editor of the state-run Global Times, described the talks as arduous, but "conducted in a pleasant and candid atmosphere".

Before he departed the Chinese capital, Mr Ted McKinney, US undersecretary of agriculture for trade and foreign agricultural affairs, told reporters that the trade negotiations had been "just fine".

"It's been a good one for us," he said without elaborating.

The outcome, if positive, paves the way for both sides to reach a possible trade agreement before March 1, staving off a US tariff hike to 25 per cent from 10 per cent on US$200 billion (S$271 billion) worth of Chinese goods.

The news that both sides were making progress buoyed Asian markets on Wednesday.

Japan's Nikkei 225 jumped 1.1 per cent, while South Korea's Kospi gained nearly 2 per cent. The Straits Times Index (STI) also edged up 1.12 per cent, closing at 3,158.07 points.

Vice-Premier Liu He, China's top negotiator for the talks and President Xi Jinping's top economic adviser, is expected to lead a Chinese delegation to Washington for further talks later this month.

The just-ended trade discussions - led by US Deputy Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish and Chinese Vice-Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen - were initially scheduled to end on Tuesday.

The one-day extension "indicates that both sides were very serious about these negotiations", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a briefing on Wednesday.

He added that a good outcome would "not only benefit China and the US, it would also be good news for the world economy".

The talks are the first face-to-face meetings since Mr Xi and US President Donald Trump brokered a 90-day ceasefire in trade hostilities in December. The trade war has seen both sides impose tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of goods from each other.

The vice-ministerial level talks are working-level discussions and not meant to yield a final agreement.

But it is a key step before both countries' top negotiators - US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Mr Liu - can sit down to thrash out a deal.

Ahead of the end of the talks on Wednesday, Chinese media said resolving trade difference would require both sides to compromise.

"(China) has also made it clear that it will not seek a solution to the trade frictions by making unreasonable concessions, and any agreement has to involve give and take from both sides," wrote the state-run China Daily in an editorial on Wednesday.

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