US and Chinese negotiators wrapped up their latest round of trade talks in Beijing on Wednesday as they seek a way out of a damaging trade war.
Despite rising hopes of progress toward a deal, the outcome wasn’t immediately clear. A statement from the Chinese government was expected as soon as Wednesday.
The meetings in Beijing were the first formal trade negotiations between the two sides since President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed to a truce at the G20 summit in Argentina last month.
The talks were seen as a litmus test of whether a lasting deal can be reached before March 2, when the Trump administration plans to hike tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods from 10% to 25%. Such a move would significantly escalate the months-long trade war between the world’s top two economies.
The negotiations appeared to have been making progress on areas such as China stepping up purchases of American exports and giving US companies greater access to its market in order to build confidence between the two sides after months of bitter confrontation.
“It seems there have been no fist fights internally between the two delegations,” a person familiar with the progress of the talks told CNN on Tuesday, describing them as “constructive.”
The negotiations extended into a third day, which was interpreted as a sign discussions were moving in a positive direction. While the US government hadn’t specified how long the talks would last, China’s Commerce Ministry had previously said they would only go on for two days.
“Talks with China are going very well!” Trump said in a tweet on Tuesday.
China making encouraging moves
Key decisions on some of the tougher issues are expected to be left for future rounds of talks, such as US complaints that Beijing’s policies force American companies to hand over technology and unfairly boost Chinese firms with subsidies.
The US delegation to Beijing this week was led by Jeff Gerrish, deputy to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer who is leading the negotiations for the Trump administration.
US officials are expected to host China’s top trade negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He, in Washington later this month, a source told CNN on Monday.
One apparent breakthrough this week was an announcement by China that it would approve the imports of five new varieties of genetically modified crops, a decision for which US farmers and businesses had waited years.
It’s the latest recent move by China to try to address the Trump administration’s complaints.
Uncertainty over whether the two sides can build on the ceasefire agreed by Trump and Xi fueled volatile trading in global markets in recent weeks.
Stock markets were roiled last week after Apple (APPL) warned it will badly miss its quarterly sales forecast because of weaker growth in China amid the trade war.
But stocks have rebounded this week on hopes the talks between the two governments will eventually bring an end to hostilities. On Tuesday, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose more than 2% and Japan’s Nikkei more than 1%.