May 5, 2018 / 6:26 AM / 20 days ago

China state media sees positives in trade talks with U.S.

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese state media struck an optimistic note on trade talks between Chinese and U.S. officials after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to impose tariffs on up to $150 billion in Chinese goods over allegations of intellectual property theft.

Members of U.S. trade delegation, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, leave a hotel in Beijing, China, May 4, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

The English-language China Daily saw a “positive development” in the two days of talks in an agreement to establish a mechanism to keep the dialogue open, despite “big differences”, as part an effort to resolve trade disputes.

The newspaper said the biggest achievement was “the constructive agreement between Beijing and Washington to keep discussing contentious trade issues, instead of continuing the two-way barrage of tariffs, which pretty much brought the two countries to the brink of a trade war”.

The People’s Daily said the talks “laid solid foundation for further talks on trade and economic cooperation, and for ultimately achieving benefits (to both countries) and win-win results”.

China’s state-run Xinhua news agency described the talks as “constructive, candid and efficient” but with disagreements that remain “relatively big”.

People familiar with the talks said on Friday the Trump administration had drawn a hard line, demanding a $200 billion cut in the Chinese trade surplus with the United States, sharply lower tariffs and advanced technology subsidies.

The lengthy list of demands was presented to Beijing before the start of talks on Thursday and Friday to try to avert a damaging trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

A White House statement issued on Friday said the U.S. delegation, led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, “held frank discussions with Chinese officials on rebalancing the United States–China bilateral economic relationship, improving China’s protection of intellectual property, and identifying policies that unfairly enforce technology transfers”.

The statement gave no indication that Trump would back off on his threat to impose tariffs.

Capital Economics, a private economic research consultancy based in London, said in a research note that demands made by the United States were so “unrealistically high” that an agreement was unlikely this week.

“Unless the Trump administration settles for a lot less than initially demanded, tensions between the two countries will continue for some time,” it said.

But “both the U.S. and China have shown some willingness to compromise”, it said. “Given that the U.S. entered into the negotiations with a list of unrealistically high demands... it is reassuring that the talks didn’t break down altogether.”

The U.S. delegation was returning to Washington to brief Trump and “seek his decision on next steps”, the White House said, adding that the administration had “consensus” for “immediate attention” to change the U.S-China trade and investment relationship.

Trump said he would meet the delegation on Saturday.

“We will be meeting tomorrow to determine the results, but it is hard for China in that they have become very spoiled with U.S. trade wins!” he said in a Twitter post late on Friday.

Reporting By Norihiko Shirouzu and Pei Li; Editing by Nick Macfie

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