U.S., China set to sign massive purchases deal, easing trade war

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will sign an initial trade deal on Wednesday that will roll back some tariffs and see China boost purchases of U.S. goods and services, defusing an 18-month conflict between the world’s two largest economies.

Liu said the two sides will work more closely together to obtain tangible results and achieve a win-win relationship despite differences in their political and economic models, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday.

U.S. officials called the deal a huge win that marked a significant shift in Washington’s relations with China, but said it included a tough enforcement measure that could trigger renewed tariffs if Beijing does not live up to its promises.

The Phase 1 agreement caps a trade war marked by tit-for-tat tariffs that has hit hundreds of billions of dollars in goods, roiling financial markets, uprooting supply chains and slowing global growth.

Some analysts and economists have questioned whether the outcome of the drawn-out talks justified that economic pain.

Trump and Liu, who led the Chinese side in the trade talks with Washington, are scheduled to sign the 86-page Phase 1 deal at a White House event at 11:30 a.m. EST (1630 GMT) before over 200 invited guests from business, government and diplomatic circles.

It is not clear at this time whether the entire document will be released on Wednesday.

Trump, who entered the White House in 2017 vowing to rebalance global trade in favor of the United States, has already begun touting the deal as a pillar in his 2020 re-election campaign, calling it “a big beautiful monster” at a rally in Toledo, Ohio last week.

“Our farmers will take it in. I keep saying, ‘Go buy larger tractors, go buy larger tractors,'” Trump said.

The centerpiece of the deal is a pledge by China to purchase an additional $200 billion worth of U.S. farm products and other goods and services over two years. That will help reduce the bilateral U.S. trade deficit in goods, which peaked at $420 billion in 2018. The United States had a small services trade surplus with China of $40.5 billion in 2018.

Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told Fox News the agreement would add 0.5 percentage point to U.S. gross domestic product growth in both 2020 and 2021.

Kudlow said the deal called for China to buy an additional $75 billion worth of U.S. manufactured goods over the two-year period. A source told Reuters this week that would include aircraft, autos and car parts, agricultural machinery and medical devices.

Beijing will boost energy purchases by some $50 billion and services by $40 billion, mostly in the financial sector, Kudlow said.

The Reuters source said agricultural purchases will get a $32 billion lift over the two years, compared to a 2017 baseline of U.S. exports to China.

When combined with the $24 billion in 2017 farm exports, the $16 billion annual increase approaches Trump’s goal of $40 billion to $50 billion in annual agricultural sales to China.

China will significantly increase imports of U.S. soybeans after the Phase 1 deal is signed, the Global Times reported on Wednesday, citing comments from a senior Chinese economist at a state think tank.

Wang Liaowei, senior economist at the China National Grain and Oils Information Center, which is under the National Food and Strategic Reserves Administration, also told the paper that imports of U.S. products such as pork and cotton could also see a jump.

Although the deal could be a big boost to farmers, planemaker Boeing <BA.N>, U.S. automakers and heavy equipment manufacturers, some analysts question https://af.reuters.com/article/commoditiesNews/idAFL4N29J26S China’s ability to divert imports from other trading partners to the United States.

“I find a radical shift in Chinese spending unlikely. I have low expectations for meeting stated goals,” said Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Leuthold Group in Minneapolis. “But I do think the whole negotiation has moved the football forward for both the U.S. and China.”

TARIFFS TO STAY

The Phase 1 deal, reached in December, canceled planned U.S. tariffs on Chinese-made cellphones, toys and laptop computers and halved the tariff rate to 7.5% on about $120 billion worth of other Chinese goods, including flat panel televisions, Bluetooth headphones and footwear.

But it will leave in place 25% tariffs on a vast, $250 billion array of Chinese industrial goods and components used by U.S. manufacturers.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC on Wednesday the deal would boost the U.S. economy, and that Washington could lower tariffs as part of a Phase 2 agreement that would address complex issues such as cybersecurity.

Mnuchin said the U.S. relationship with China was complicated and Washington would continue to raise humanitarian and national security concerns with Beijing in separate discussions. “You have to negotiate different pieces at different times,” he said.

He said Chinese telecom equipment maker Huawei Technologies Co Ltd was not a “chess piece” in the economic negotiations.

China’s Global Times said the Phase 2 discussions may not start anytime soon.

Evidence is mounting that tariffs have raised input costs for U.S. manufacturers, eroding their competitiveness.

Diesel engine maker Cummins Inc <CMI.N> said on Tuesday that the deal will leave it paying $150 million in tariffs for engines and castings that it produces in China.

The company issued a tepid statement of approval on Tuesday: “We believe this is a positive step and remain optimistic that all parties will remain at the table in order to create a pathway to eliminate all of the instituted tariffs.”

Lighthizer and Mnuchin insisted there were no side agreements to remove more tariffs after the November U.S. elections. Mnuchin on Wednesday reiterated that Trump could consider easing tariffs if the two countries move quickly to seal a Phase 2 follow-up agreement.

CORE ISSUES UNTOUCHED

The Phase 1 deal includes pledges by China to forbid the forced transfer of American technology to Chinese firms as well as to increase protections for U.S. intellectual property.

But it stops well short of addressing the core U.S. complaints about China’s trade and intellectual property practices that prompted the Trump administration to pressure Beijing for changes in early 2017.

The deal contains no provisions to rein in rampant subsidies for state-owned enterprises, which the administration blames for excess capacity in steel and aluminum and says threaten industries from aircraft to semiconductors.

It also fails to address digital trade restrictions and China’s onerous cybersecurity regulations that have hobbled U.S. technology firms in China.

China has agreed in the Phase 1 deal to open its financial services sector more widely to U.S. firms, and to refrain from deliberately pushing down its currency to gain a trade advantage, the latter prompting Treasury to drop its currency manipulator label on Beijing.

(Additional reporting by Lisa Lambert, Andrea Shalal, Echo Wang, Alexandra Alper, and Herb Lash in New York, and Se Young Lee and Stella Qui in Beijing; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Paul Simao)

Take Five: What’s the deal?

LONDON (Reuters) –

1/AFTER PHASE ONE COMES PHASE TWO

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese officials have agreed to a “phase one” trade deal that includes cutting U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods.

Washington has agreed to suspend tariffs on $160 billion in Chinese goods due to go into effect on Dec. 15, Trump said, and cut existing tariffs to 7.5%.

The agreement covers intellectual property, technology transfer, agriculture, financial services, currency, and foreign exchange, according to Washington’s Trade Representative.

Neither side offered specific details on the amount of U.S. agricultural goods Beijing had agreed to buy – a key sticking point of the lengthy deal negotiations. News of the trade deal saw U.S. stocks romp to fresh record levels. But few doubt that the rollercoaster is over yet.

While Trump announced that “phase two” trade talks would start immediately, Beijing made it clear that moving to the next stage of the trade negotiations would depend on implementing phase one first. While markets cheered the December rally, few expect the trade deal rollercoaster ride to be quite over yet.

 

2/MORE NICE SURPRISES, PLEASE!

First clues as to whether euro zone powerhouse Germany can avoid a fourth quarter recession emerge on Monday when advance PMI readings for November are released globally.

The economic activity surveys, a key barometer of economic health, come after Citi’s economic surprise index showed euro zone economic data beating consensus expectations at the fastest pace since February 2018. The latest surprise was a 1.2% rise in German exports in October, defying forecasts of a contraction.

Hopes are high that exports and private consumption, which helped Germany skirt recession, will hold up. Last month’s PMI data showed manufacturing remained in deep contraction across the bloc.

A Reuters poll showed expectations of a modestly higher 46.0 manufacturing reading in the euro zone but that’s still far below the 50-mark which separates growth from contraction. Services, which have held up better so far, are expected to grow modestly from November, at 52.0.

Graphic: Citi surprise index most positive since Feb 2018, https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/12/9901/9813/Citi%20index.png

3/BEWARE THE BOJ

Japan’s central bank meets on Thursday with the global economic outlook “relatively bright,” according to Governor Haruhiko Kuroda.

Growth green shoots, a possible U.S.-China trade deal and something nearing certainty on Brexit has got almost everyone expecting the BOJ will do very little: Interest rates are at -0.1% and the bank has eased off bond buying – even though the bank’s balance sheet is bursting with negative-yielding paper.

The government has flagged a gigantic $122 billion stimulus package to keep things moving after next year’s Olympics. Yet the business mood is dire with Friday’s “tankan” survey at its lowest reading since 2013. Big manufacturers – especially automakers – are gloomiest, as the trade war takes its toll.

The Bank of Japan has justified standing pat on the view that robust domestic demand will cushion the hit. It blames the weather and a sales tax for recent patchy data. But another week of dollar weakness will not have gone unnoticed in Tokyo, where a cheaper yen is much desired. A surprise on Tuesday export data forecast to show further contraction and Thursday’s inflation reading could jolt yen longs out of their slumber.

4/JOHNSON, AND MORE JOHNSON

A thumping election win for Prime Minister Boris Johnson has raised hopes that 3-1/2 years of Brexit-fuelled chaos will finally end.

Expectations that he may swing slightly nearer the centre of his Conservative Party, sidelining the fiercest eurosceptics, and ease the path towards a free-trade deal with the European Union have sent sterling and British shares surging.

Yet there are signs of caution, with sterling stalling around $1.35. Further gains will hinge on Johnson’s new cabinet, how the global growth and trade war backdrop pans out and what the Bank of England might do.

At the central bank’s Dec. 19 meeting, markets will watch for any shifts in its views on inflation, the UK economy and the interest rate outlook for 2020. While policymakers have skewed dovish of late amid a torrent of dismal data and sub-target inflation, the election result – and a hoped-for growth recovery – have seen money markets halve the probability of an end-2020 cut to 25%.

Without more clarity, investors might just be wary of chasing sterling much higher.

Graphic: UK economic indicators, https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/12/9958/9869/GB.png

5/SWEDEN RETURNS TO ZERO?

While most central banks are busy pondering whether to hold or cut interest rates, Sweden may swim against the tide and deliver a 25 basis-point rate hike on Dec. 19. That will end half a decade of negative interest rates in the country and make it the first in Europe to pull borrowing costs from sub-zero territory.

Policymakers flagged a rate hike in October and recent data showing inflation rising to 1.7% — just off the 2% target — cemented those expectations. The crown’s rallied to eight-month highs versus the euro, up almost 5% since October.

The proposed interest rate increase has its critics, who cite still-sluggish inflation and factory activity at its weakest since 2012.

Meanwhile, neighbouring Norway’s policy meeting, scheduled for the same day, may be less exciting as no change is expected. Investors remain baffled by the Norwegian crown’s weakness – despite policy makers delivering four rate hikes since Sept 2018, it’s at near record lows to the euro.

Graphic: Swedish crown , https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/12/9961/9872/crown.png

(Reporting by Alden Bentley in New York, Tom Westbrook in Singapore, Sujata Rao, Elizabeth Howcroft and Yoruk Bahceli in London, compiled by Karin Strohecker; edited by Philippa Fletcher)

Trump says U.S. and China ‘very close’ to trade deal as fresh tit-for-tat tariffs loom

Trump says U.S. and China ‘very close’ to trade deal as fresh tit-for-tat tariffs loom
BEIJING/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – China and the United States are in close communication on trade, officials in Beijing and Washington said, days before tit-for-tat tariffs are due to go into effect.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday said on the United States was “very close” to nailing down a trade deal with China. “Getting VERY close to a BIG DEAL with China,” Trump posted on Twitter. “They want it, and so do we.”

During a regular briefing on Wednesday in Beijing, Gao Feng, spokesman at the Chinese commerce ministry, told reporters “The two sides’ economic and trade teams are maintaining close communication.”

Stock markets jumped on Trump’s tweet, and the S&P 500 <.SPX> shot to a record high, gaining 0.85% on the day.

U.S. negotiators have offered to cut existing tariff rates on $360 billion in Chinese goods by as much as 50%, one person briefed on the negotiations said. They have also offered to suspend tariffs due to go into effect on Dec. 15, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

The White House had no comment on any offers.

Gao declined to comment on possible retaliatory steps if Washington imposes more tariffs on Chinese goods this weekend.

The United States is due to impose tariffs on almost $160 billion of Chinese imports such as video game consoles, computer monitors and toys on Dec. 15.

Trump is expected to meet top trade advisers on Thursday afternoon to discuss the move, sources told Reuters previously.

Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has recently taken a larger role in U.S.-China trade negotiations, and is among the advisers pushing the 50% tariff rollback, one person briefed on the talks said.

Analysts at Capital Alpha Partners said Thursday they expect Trump to announce a delay in the Dec. 15 tariffs as soon as Thursday for more than 30 days.

A decision to proceed with the Dec. 15 levies could roil financial markets and scuttle U.S.-China talks until after the U.S. presidential election next November. The 17-month-long trade war between the world’s two largest economies has slowed global growth and dampened profits and investment for companies around the world.

The countries agreed in October to conclude a preliminary trade agreement, but Beijing is balking at U.S. demands that it promise to buy a specific amount of agricultural goods. Beijing is also demanding rollbacks of existing tariffs imposed by the United States.

Beijing has said it would retaliate if the United States escalates the trade dispute.

In August, China said it would impose 5% and 10% in additional tariffs on $75 billion of U.S. goods in two batches. Tariffs on the first batch kicked in on Sept. 1, hitting U.S. goods including soybeans, pork, beef, chemicals and crude oil.

The tariffs on the second batch of products are due to be activated on Dec. 15, affecting goods ranging from corn and wheat to small aircraft and rare earth magnets.

China also said that it will reinstitute on Dec. 15 an additional 25% tariff on U.S.-made vehicles and 5% tariffs on auto parts that had been suspended at the beginning of 2019.

(Reporting by Gabriel Crossley and Jeff Mason; Writing by Ryan Woo and Heather Timmons; Editing by Kim Coghill and Jonathan Oatis)

China maintains tariffs must be reduced for phase one trade deal with U.S.

China maintains tariffs must be reduced for phase one trade deal with U.S.
BEIJING (Reuters) – Tariffs must be cut if China and the United States are to reach an interim agreement on trade, the Chinese commerce ministry said on Thursday, sticking to its stance that some U.S. tariffs must be rolled back for a phase one deal.

“The Chinese side believes that if the two sides reach a phase one deal, tariffs should be lowered accordingly,” ministry spokesman Gao Feng told reporters, adding that both sides were maintaining close communication.

Completion of a phase one deal between the world’s two biggest economies had been initially expected in November, ahead of a new round of U.S. tariffs set to kick in on Dec. 15, covering about $156 billion of Chinese imports.

Trade delegations on both sides remained locked in discussions over “core issues of concern,” with rising bilateral tensions over non-trade issues such as the protests in Hong Kong and Beijing’s treatment of its Uighur Muslim minority clouding prospects for a near-term deal to end a trade war.

China warned on Wednesday that U.S. legislation calling for a tougher response to Beijing’s treatment of Uighurs in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang will affect bilateral cooperation.

But “there is no need to panic,” as talks did not stop, a Chinese source who advises Beijing on the trade talks told Reuters on Wednesday.

“Both leaders have talked about reaching a deal, and officials are now finishing the work,” said the source, who thought it unlikely China would retaliate against U.S. legislation by releasing its so-called “unreliable entities list” aimed at punishing firms deemed harmful to Chinese interests.

When asked if China would release the list this year, Gao said he had no further information to reveal at present.

Beijing may hold back from publishing the list until the trade situation with the United States is at its most tense, a Chinese government source told Reuters in October.

On Wednesday, Trump said trade talks with China were going “very well,” sounding more positive than his remarks the previous day that a deal might have to wait until after the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

On Nov. 7, Gao said China and the United States must simultaneously cancel some existing tariffs on each other’s goods for both sides to reach a phase one trade deal, but how much tariffs should be canceled could be negotiated.

On a telephone call last week, China’s lead trade negotiator Vice Premier Liu He discussed “core issues of concern” with U.S. Trade representative Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Washington imposed additional 15% tariffs on about $125 billion worth of Chinese goods on Sept. 1, on top of the additional 25% tariffs levied on an earlier $250 billion list of industrial and consumer goods.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Lighthizer recognize that rolling back tariffs for a pact that fails to tackle core intellectual property and technology transfer issues will not be seen as a good deal for the United States, a person briefed on the matter told Reuters late last month.

(Reporting by Gabriel Crossley and Yawen Chen; Writing by Ryan Woo; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Jacqueline Wong)

Black Friday sees fewer shoppers in U.S. stores as spending moves online

Black Friday sees fewer shoppers in U.S. stores as spending moves online
By Melissa Fares and Nandita Bose

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Fewer people lined up outside stores as Black Friday shopping kicked off, suggesting early discounts offered by retail chains and a surge in online buying may have taken the shine off America’s biggest shopping day.

Spot checks across the country showed there were fewer shoppers this year as retail chains started offering discounts earlier than usual to make up for a shorter holiday season.

Some shoppers also worried that tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump on Chinese imports would make their holiday shopping more expensive, though many large retailers had not raised prices to protect margins.

“There were definitely some concerns about prices due to what we see in the news about the trade war, but I haven’t seen the impact yet, so I am planning to spend about the same this year as I have in the past,” said Jay Smith, 28, who was shopping at a Macy’s in Pentagon City to buy clothes and toys for her family.

While store traffic still remains an important indicator, a lot of shopping during Thanksgiving and Black Friday now happens online. Adobe Analytics, which measures transactions from 80 of the top 100 U.S. online retailers, estimates $7.5 billion in online sales for Black Friday, growth of over 20.5% year-over-year.

Online sales on Thanksgiving Day alone jumped 17% to $4.1 billion in the United States, according to Salesforce. Global online revenue rose 24% to $20 billion.

Companies including Walmart Inc , Target Corp , Costco Wholesale Corp  and Best Buy Co Inc  have bulked up their online presence, deliveries and fast in-store pickups to attract customers.

Though Black Friday remains an important day for holiday shopping, its relevance is fading as the condensed shopping season this year has accelerated early promotions and spending. Retailers have six fewer days to make sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

That has pulled spending into early November. More than half of consumers polled by the National Retail Federation (NRF) in the first week of this month had already begun making purchases. On average, Americans had already completed almost a quarter of their shopping, the most in the history of NRF’s surveys.

“We’ve seen many merchants start their promotions pretty much right after the trick-or-treaters have gone to bed,” said Lauren Bitar, head of retail consulting at analytics firm RetailNext.

Sales made prior to Thanksgiving and Black Friday could erode “the spike that we have seen in sales dollars historically,” Bitar said.

Several shoppers on Friday said they regularly make sure they are getting the best deal by making price comparisons, oftentimes as they are shopping in-store.

“I will come to the mall, look at prices and go back and check them online,” said Dick Doyle, 76, who was shopping at a Modell’s Sporting Goods while his wife was next door at Nordstrom Rack <JWN.N>. Doyle is an Amazon <AMZN.O> Prime member, which keeps him “locked in” to shopping the online retailer.

“Prices and discounts online are competitive to what’s available in stores,” he added.

Meanwhile, in France, activists staged protests against Amazon on Friday, denouncing the rampant consumerism typified by the annual Black Friday shopping frenzy.

(Reporting by Melissa Fares in New York, Nandita Bose in Washington, Richa Naidu in Chicago and Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Sweta Singh, Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Nick Zieminski)

U.S. and China ‘getting close’ to trade deal: White House economic adviser

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States and China are getting close to a trade agreement, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Thursday, citing what he called very constructive talks with Beijing about ending a 16-month trade war.

Kudlow said negotiators for the world’s two largest economies were in close touch via telephone but he gave no further details on the timing of a possible deal.

“We’re getting close,” he told an event at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. “The mood music is pretty good, and that has not always been so in these things.”

The United States and China have been locked in successive waves of tit-for-tat tariffs that have roiled financial markets and threaten to drag growth in the global economy to its lowest rate since the 2007-2008 financial crisis.

Markets are anxiously awaiting an agreement to end uncertainty that has slowed business investment around the globe. An agreement had appeared likely in May, but those prospects were dashed after U.S. negotiators said China backed away from the text of a draft agreement.

Kudlow’s comments could ease market concerns that flared again this week amid reports that the trade talks had hit a snag over how and when to reduce tariffs, and what level of agricultural purchases could be expected from China.

Markets also soured after U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he could impose substantial new tariffs on China if no deal was reached.

Kudlow told the audience he had just come from a meeting of the top Trump administration trade officials and was more optimistic.

“It’s not done yet, but there has been very good progress and the talks have been very constructive,” he told the event.

He also opened the door to the possibility that Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping would not need to meet in person to clinch a deal.

Trump had hoped to sign the “phase one” agreement with China on the sidelines of the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Chile this month, but that possibility disappeared after Chile withdrew from hosting the event.

Kudlow said the White House had hoped to stick to that general timetable. He joked that his preference was for the deal to be signed in his office on the second floor of the White House.

“I don’t like to travel,” he quipped.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by Sandra Maler and Grant McCool)

Mexico flies 300 Indian migrants to New Delhi in ‘unprecedented’ mass deportation

Mexico flies 300 Indian migrants to New Delhi in ‘unprecedented’ mass deportation
MEXICO CITY/NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Mexico has deported over 300 Indian nationals to New Delhi, the National Migration Institute (INM) said late on Wednesday, calling it an unprecedented transatlantic deportation.

The move follows a deal Mexico struck with the United States in June, vowing to significantly curb U.S.-bound migration in exchange for averting U.S. tariffs on Mexican exports.

“It is unprecedented in INM’s history – in either form or the number of people – for a transatlantic air transport like the one carried out on this day,” INM said in a statement.

The 310 men and one woman that INM said were in Mexico illegally were sent on a chartered flight, accompanied by federal immigration agents and Mexico’s National Guard. They arrived in New Delhi on Friday.

Most of the deportees were from India’s northern Punjab state, an Indian official said. Police will run checks if any of them had criminal history, another official said.

INM said the deportees had been scattered in eight states around Mexico, including in southern Mexico from where many Indian migrants enter the country, hoping to transit to the U.S. border.

The backlog of migrants in southern Mexico has grown as officials have stopped issuing permits for them to cross the country, said Caitlyn Yates, a research coordinator at IBI Consultants who has studied increasing numbers of U.S.-bound Asian and African migrants arriving in Mexico.

“This type of deportation in Mexico is the first of its kind but likely to continue,” Yates said.

(Reporting by Anthony Esposito and Daina Beth Solomon in NEW MEXICO, Rupam Jain in MUMBAI, and Zeba Siddiqui in NEW DELHI; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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

China says it hopes to reach phased trade pact with U.S. as soon as possible
BEIJING (Reuters) – China hopes to reach a phased agreement in a protracted trade dispute with the United States and cancel tariffs as soon as possible, the Commerce Ministry said on Thursday, adding that trade wars had no winners.

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

“The final goal of both sides’ negotiations is to end the trade war and cancel all additional tariffs,” Gao said. “This would benefit China, the U.S. and the whole world. We hope that both sides will continue to work together, advance negotiations, and reach a phased agreement as soon as possible.”

Chinese premier Li Keqiang said both China and the United States need to resolve the issues through dialogue. He made the comments on Thursday when he met delegates led by Evan Greenberg, chairman of the U.S.-China Business Council.

“China will create an internationalized business environment ruled by law where domestic and foreign firms are treated equally,” Li said. “Property and intellectual property rights will be strictly protected.”

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow meanwhile said he saw momentum to finalize the initial phase of a trade deal which could be signed at the APEC forum next month in Chile.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Oct. 11 outlined the first phase of a deal and suspended a threatened tariff hike, but officials on both sides said much more work needed to be done.

Trump had originally planned to proceed with a rise 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 were working on specifics of an agreement now, Gao said.

There have been positive signs from China in recent days.

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.

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 of U.S. agricultural goods. Mnuchin said the purchases would be scaled up to that amount annually.

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

“Since this year, under the effect of China-U.S. trade frictions, trade and investment between the U.S. and China have fallen,” Gao said.

“This fully demonstrates that trade wars have no winners.”

(Reporting by Gabriel Crossley; Writing by Ryan Woo; Editing by Alex Richardson and Nick Macfie)

With U.S. tariffs looming, China drums up hope for a partial trade deal

By Yawen Chen and Michael Martina

BEIJING (Reuters) – A Chinese state newspaper said on Friday that a “partial” trade deal would benefit China and the United States, and Washington should take the offer on the table, reflecting Beijing’s aim of cooling the row before more U.S. tariffs kick in.

Both sides have slapped duties on hundreds of billions of dollars of goods during the 15-month trade dispute, which has shaken financial markets and uprooted global supply chains as companies move production elsewhere.

As top U.S. and Chinese negotiators wrapped up a first day of trade talks in more than two months on Thursday, business groups expressed optimism the two sides might be able to ease the conflict and delay a U.S. tariff hike scheduled for next week.

China’s top trade negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He, said on Thursday that China is willing to reach agreement with the United States on matters that both sides care about so as to prevent friction from leading to any further escalation.

He stressed that “the Chinese side came with great sincerity”.

Adding to that, the official China Daily newspaper said in an editorial in English: “A partial deal is a more feasible objective”.

“Not only would it be of tangible benefit by breaking the impasse, but it would also create badly needed breathing space for both sides to reflect on the bigger picture,” the paper said.

Hours ahead of an expected meeting between China’s Liu and U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House, China’s securities regulator unveiled a firm timetable for scrapping foreign ownership limits in futures, securities and mutual fund companies for the first time.

China previously said it would further open up its financial sector on its own terms and at its own pace, but the timing of Friday’s announcement suggests Beijing is keen to show progress in its plan to increase foreigners’ access to the sector, which is among a host of demands from Washington in the trade talks.

Chinese officials are offering to increase annual purchases of U.S. agricultural products as the two countries seek to resolve their trade dispute, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday, citing unidentified sources.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Thursday 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.

A U.S.-China currency agreement is also being floated as a symbol of progress in talks between the world’s two largest economies, although that would largely repeat past pledges by China, currency experts say, and will not change the dollar-yuan relationship that has been a thorn in the side of Trump.

PESSIMISM ‘STILL JUSTIFIED’

Analysts have noted China sent a larger-than-normal delegation of senior Chinese officials to Washington, with commerce minister Zhong Shan and deputy ministers on agriculture and technology also present.

The sudden optimism about a potential de-escalation is in stark contrast to much more gloomy predictions in business circles just days ago on the heels of a series of threatened crackdowns on China by the Trump administration.

On Tuesday, the U.S. government widened its trade blacklist to include Chinese public security bureaus and some of China’s top artificial intelligence startups, punishing Beijing for its treatment of Muslim minorities.

Surprised by the move, Chinese government officials told Reuters on the eve of talks that they had lowered expectations for significant progress.

Friday’s China Daily editorial also warned that “pessimism is still justified”, noting that the talks would finish just three days before Washington is due to raise tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports.

The negotiations were the “only window” to end deteriorating relations, it added.

Trump, said on Thursday that the talks had so far gone very well. But he has previously insisted he would not be satisfied with a partial deal to resolve his two-year effort to change China’s trade, intellectual property and industrial policy practices, which he argues cost millions of U.S. jobs.

There have also been reports that the Trump administration is readying additional measures aimed at China, with unknown consequences for trade negotiations.

Such wildly shifting expectations have been a persistent feature of the trade war, and observers remained cautious over what might emerge from this week’s talks.

“China wants peace, but I don’t think China will give more,” one Chinese trade expert said on condition of anonymity.

(Reporting by Yawen Chen and Michael Martina; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore & Kim Coghill)

With U.S.-China tensions running high, hopes dim for end to trade war

By Andrea Shalal and Cate Cadell

WASHINGTON/BEIJING (Reuters) – Beijing sharply rebuked Washington on Tuesday for adding some top Chinese artificial intelligence startups to its trade blacklist, dimming hopes for progress in high-level talks aimed at ending a 15-month trade war between the two economic giants.

U.S. and Chinese deputy trade negotiators were due to meet in Washington for a second day of talks on Tuesday, laying the groundwork for the first minister-level meetings in over two months later this week.

A report from the South China Morning Post said China had tamped down expectations ahead of the talks scheduled for Thursday with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, saying the Chinese delegation could leave earlier than planned because “there’s not too much optimism.”

The mood soured this week after the U.S. Commerce Department widened its trade blacklist to include 20 Chinese public security bureaus and eight companies including video surveillance firm Hikvision <002415.SZ>, as well as leaders in facial recognition technology SenseTime Group Ltd and Megvii Technology Ltd.

The action bars the firms from buying components from American companies without U.S. government approval, a potentially crippling move. It follows the same blueprint used by Washington in its attempt to limit the influence of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL] for what it says are national security reasons.

Hikvision, with a market value of about $42 billion, calls itself the world’s largest maker of video surveillance gear.

U.S. officials said the action was tied to China’s treatment of Muslim minorities and human rights violations, provoking a sharp reaction from Beijing.

China said the United States should stop interfering in its affairs. It will continue to take firm and resolute measures to protect its sovereign security, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular media briefing without elaborating.

Major U.S. stock indexes fell on Tuesday, amid the continued tensions between the United States and China, whose tit-for-tat tariffs have roiled financial markets, slowed capital investment, and triggered a slowdown in trade flows.

New International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva issued a stark warning about the state of global growth on Tuesday, saying trade conflicts had thrown it into a “synchronized slowdown” and must be resolved.

In her inaugural speech after taking over the global crisis lender on Oct. 1, Georgieva unveiled new IMF research showing that the cumulative effect of trade conflicts could mean a $700 billion reduction in global GDP output by 2020, or around 0.8%.

LOOMING TARIFF HIKES

The trade talks are taking place days before U.S. tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods are slated to rise to 30% from 25%. Trump has said the tariff increase will take effect on Oct. 15 if no progress is made in the negotiations.

President Donald Trump on Monday said a quick trade deal was unlikely, and that he would not be satisfied with a partial deal.

The two sides have been at loggerheads over U.S. demands that China improve protections of American intellectual property, end cyber theft and the forced transfer of technology to Chinese firms, curb industrial subsidies and increase U.S. companies’ access to largely closed Chinese markets.

Trump launched a new round of tariffs after the last high-level talks in late July failed to result in agricultural purchases or yield progress on substantive issues. China quickly responded with tariff increases of its own.

Washington is also moving ahead with discussions around possible restrictions on capital flows into China, with a focus on investments made by U.S. government pension funds, Bloomberg reported. The news sent shares of chipmakers sharply lower.

Another flashpoint has been a widening controversy over a tweet from an official with the NBA’s Houston Rockets. His backing of Hong Kong democracy protests was rebuked by the National Basketball Association, sparking a backlash.

Trump also called for a peaceful resolution to the protests in Hong Kong, and warned the situation had the potential to hurt trade talks.

Police in Hong Kong have used rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons against pro-democracy demonstrators in the former British colony, which has been plunged into its worst political crisis in decades.

Beijing views U.S. support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong as interfering with its sovereignty.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal and David Lawder in Washington and Cate Cadell in Beijing; Writing by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Paul Simao)