China hopes for phased trade pact with US as early as possible

China and the US are keeping in close contact and working on the specifics of a deal, says a Chinese spokesman.

    Working-level trade negotiations between the US and China are underway, with both sides sounding more optimistic about reaching a deal soon, but hurdles remain [File: Ted S Warren/AP]
    Working-level trade negotiations between the US and China are underway, with both sides sounding more optimistic about reaching a deal soon, but hurdles remain [File: Ted S Warren/AP]

    China is hoping to reach a phased agreement with the United States over trade as early as possible, and make progress on cancelling tariffs on each others' goods, its commerce ministry said on Thursday.

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

    On October 11, US 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 percent from 25 percent on about $250bn worth of Chinese goods last week. But the US administration has yet to decide how to address planned 10 percent tariffs on roughly $156bn of Chinese goods due to take effect on December 15.

    US and Chinese trade negotiators are working on nailing down a Phase 1 trade deal text for their presidents to sign next month, US 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 November 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 US demands at the trade talks.

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

    Trump said China had agreed to make purchases of $40bn to $50bn in US 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.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency