Critical US-China trade talks end in Beijing

6 May, 2018 12:00 AM printer

BEIJING: China and the US ended the second day of high-stakes trade talks Friday with "big differences", Beijing said, leaving the world's two largest economies on the brink of a trade war that could have knock-on effects on the global economy.

The talks were aimed at forestalling momentum towards the looming conflict, with both sides prepared to pull the trigger on tariffs that could affect trade in billions of dollars of goods, reports AFP.

"Both sides recognise there are still big differences on some issues and that they need to continue to step up their work to make progress," China said in a statement released by the official Xinhua state news agency.

The discussions promised a potential off-ramp for the trade conflict -- US President Donald Trump has threatened to levy new tariffs on $150 billion of Chinese imports while Beijing shot back with a list of $50 billion in targeted US goods.

"The two sides exchanged views on expanding US exports to China, trade in services, bilateral investment, protection of intellectual property rights, resolution of tariffs and non-tariff measures," Xinhua said.

It added that they had reached "a consensus in some areas", without elaborating.

The countries agreed to establish a "working mechanism" to continue talks, it said.

The announcement followed comments by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin earlier in the day that the two sides were having "very good conversations".

However, American officials declined to give further details of the discussions.

China is confused about what the US actually wants, said Zhang Monan, a researcher at the influential think-tank China Center for International Economic Exchanges.

The American pressure on Beijing has heightened, she said, even as Beijing has taken several steps to liberalise its markets.

Those reforms include a timeline to lift foreign ownership restrictions for automakers, permitting foreign investors to take controlling stakes in some financial firms, and on Friday, allowing foreign companies to trade iron futures on domestic exchanges.

But a list of demands presented to Beijing before the negotiations got under way showed such piecemeal reforms fell far short of US expectations.