China says it hopes to reach phased trade pact with U.S. as early as possible


BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s commerce ministry said on Thursday that China hoped to reach a phased agreement with the United States over trade as early as possible, and make progress on canceling tariffs on each others’ goods.

A phased agreement would help restore market confidence and reduce uncertainty, Gao Feng, spokesman at the ministry, told reporters, adding that both sides were maintaining close communication.

On Oct. 11, U.S. President Donald Trump outlined the first phase of a deal to end the trade war with China and suspended a threatened tariff hike, but officials on both sides said much more work needed to be done before an accord could be agreed.

Trump had originally planned to proceed with a hike in tariffs to 30% from 25% on about $250 billion worth of Chinese goods last week. But the U.S. administration has yet to make a decision on how to address planned 10% tariffs on roughly $156 billion of Chinese goods due to take effect on Dec. 15.

U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators are working on nailing down a Phase 1 trade deal text for their presidents to sign next month, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday.

Mnuchin said the Trump administration’s “objective” was for the agreement to be signed between the presidents of the two countries at a Nov. 16-17 summit of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation countries in Santiago, Chile.

Working-level representatives from both countries are working on specifics of an agreement now, Gao said.

In recent days, there have been positive signs from China.

China’s securities regulator on Friday unveiled a firm timetable for scrapping foreign ownership limits in futures, securities and mutual fund companies for the first time. Increasing foreign access to the sector is among the U.S. demands at the trade talks.

FILE PHOTO: China’s Ministry of Commerce spokesperson Gao Feng attends a news conference in Beijing, China April 6, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo

A day before, the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed net sales of 142,172 tonnes of U.S. pork to China in the week ended Oct. 3, the largest weekly sale to the world’s top pork market on record.

Trump said China had agreed to make purchases of $40 billion to $50 billion in U.S. agricultural goods. Mnuchin said the purchases would be scaled up to that amount annually.

On Wednesday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said China will remove business restrictions on foreign banks, brokerages and fund management firms, without giving details.

Reporting by Gabriel Crossley; Writing by Ryan Woo; Editing by Alex Richardson, Raju Gopalakrishnan



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