Two days of U.S.-China trade talks have proved surprisingly productive, fueling hopes the countries can reach a deal to avert punishing new tariffs.
UNITED NATIONS — U.S. and Chinese officials meeting in Beijing this week agreed on Tuesday to continue trade talks for another day, a sign from both sides of an eagerness to make the most of a two-month window before still new tariffs enter effect.
China signaled how seriously it’s taking this week’s talks on Monday when it sent Vice Premiere Liu He — the country’s top trade official — to join its Chinese delegation. Previously, the intention from both sides had been to keep the negotiations at the deputy level.
Peter Petri is a professor of international finance at Brandeis University and a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution’s China Center.
“We’re hearing some very good optics around this set of meetings.”
China also handed the U.S. two concessions in this week’s talks, ordering the purchase of hundreds of thousands of tons of American soybeans and approving five new genetically modified grain crops from the for import, clearing the way for more purchases of U.S. agricultural exports in the coming years.
To some that’s seen as an effort to split Trump advisers happy to end the trade war after narrowing the U.S. trade deficit from those pursuing a host of bigger, thornier reforms. But whatever its motivations, Petri says China’s actions this week were encouraging.
“I think the interpretation one gets from all of this is that this matters to the Chinese, they do want a solution.”
And yet the U.S. and China still disagree on a lot, including difficult questions around intellectual property protections. With just weeks to go before a deadline to settle trade differences or see a ratcheting up of tariffs, Petri thinks the U.S. and China should pursue two diplomatic tracks at once:
“That’s where the bargain is being constructed. On the one hand, some immediate results, and on the other hand a decision to undertake a serious effort to address deeper divisions.”