Exclusive: U.S.-China trade deal signing could be delayed until December: U.S. source

Exclusive: U.S.-China trade deal signing could be delayed until December: U.S. source
By David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping to sign a long-awaited interim trade deal could be delayed until December as discussions continue over terms and venue, a senior official of the Trump administration told Reuters on Wednesday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was still possible the “Phase One” agreement aimed at ending a damaging trade war would not be reached, but a deal was more likely than not.

Dozens of venues have been suggested for the meeting, which had originally been scheduled to take place on the sidelines of a now-canceled mid-November summit of Asia-Pacific leaders in Chile, the official said.

They included sites in Europe and Asia, but the former was more likely, with Sweden and Switzerland among the possibilities. Iowa, which Trump has suggested, appeared to have been ruled out, the official said.

China’s latest push for more tariff rollbacks would be discussed, but was not expected to derail progress toward an interim deal.

The official said China was believed to see a quick deal as its best chance for favorable terms, given pressure Trump is facing from a congressional impeachment inquiry as he seeks re-election in 2020.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Phase one trade deal with China is in good shape: U.S. Commerce Secretary

Phase one trade deal with China is in good shape: U.S. Commerce Secretary
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The initial “phase one” trade pact with China appears to be in good shape and is likely to be signed around mid-November, although a finite date is still in question, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Friday.

“We’re pretty comfortable that the phase one is in good shape,” he told Fox Business Network in an interview.

U.S. President Donald Trump and other administration officials had looked toward the Nov. 11-17 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit as a possible venue to sign the deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping before Chile this week canceled its plan to host the international summit.

“Hopefully we can resurrect a date right in that range,” Ross told the television network, adding that the question of a new location remained.

Lead trade negotiators from both the United States and Chine are expected to speak by telephone on Friday as Ross prepared separately to travel to Asia for a three-day summit of Southeast Asian nations in Thailand.

“There will some transactions announced — some very good-sized transactions — announced while I’m on this trip,” he said, but gave no other details.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Catherine Evans and Louise Heavens)

Amid crises, Xi seems set to uphold Party’s rule at secretive China conclave

Amid crises, Xi seems set to uphold Party’s rule at secretive China conclave
By Ben Blanchard, Kevin Yao and Keith Zhai

BEIJING/SINGAPORE (Reuters) – China’s Communist Party leaders will on Monday start their most important meeting this year, with President Xi Jinping expected to champion the Chinese model of governance while fighting protracted economic and political crises at home and abroad.

The four-day conclave comes at a critical time, as Hong Kong grapples with anti-government protests for the fourth month, drawing Western criticism of Beijing for trampling on the rights and liberties of Hong Kong people in its handling of the violent demonstrations.

China’s economy is also growing at its slowest pace in nearly three decades, hurt in part by a prolonged trade war with the United States. Stable growth has been fundamental to the Party’s political legitimacy.

It is key for Beijing to use the occasion to cast the Chinese political system as meritocratic, unchallengeable and superior to Western democracy, said Wang Jiangyu, director of the Asian Law Institute at the National University of Singapore.

Party leaders have repeatedly warned that without Communist rule, China would descend into chaos and fall prey to hostile Western powers. In September, Xi said China was entering a period of “concentrated risks” – economic, political and diplomatic – and the country must be ready to fight.

“China’s Party-state wants to show that its political system is more attractive overseas, and others should stop their finger-pointing,” Wang said.

Plenums, as such Communist Party meetings are formally called, are generally held every autumn. The upcoming plenum will be the fourth since the last Party congress in late 2017.

It is a closed-door meeting of the party’s Central Committee, which comprises about 370 people and is the largest of its elite bodies that rule China.

Some expected the fourth plenum to have been held last autumn, but it was not, sparking speculation in Beijing of disagreements at the top of the party about the direction of the country.

“The fourth plenum will implement reform plans, and they will talk about how to improve governance, which is pressing,” one Chinese policy insider told Reuters on condition of anonymity, because of the sensitivity of the matter.

“They need to transform the overall state governance capacity and adapt to changes in global rules and withstand stress tests from external risks,” the insider said, adding that the trade war is exacerbating such pressures.

The Communist Party spokesman’s office did not respond to a request for comment on what would be on the plenum’s agenda.

IDEOLOGY

Policy insiders say the trade war, China’s slowing economy and Hong Kong will be discussed, even if there is no direct mention of them in the final closing communique, released by state news agency Xinhua once the meetings have ended.

Two Chinese officials who reviewed the draft of the communique said the document was largely political and focused on ideological innovation.

Still, any ideological change may hint of new economic trajectories, because “ideology in China is never just about grand designs,” said Chucheng Feng, co-founder of GRisk, a political risk analytics firm based in Hong Kong.

“It is deeply linked to reform and the economy,” Feng said.

China’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew 6% in the third quarter. But U.S. President Trump said this week growth was “probably minus-something”.

Chinese leaders are expected to chart the course for the economy in 2020 at a key meeting in December.

So far, China has shown no overt sign of changing or slowing its economic reforms. Notably, it has embarked on a long-term upgrade of its industries and modernisation of its technological capabilities while moving away from low-end and polluting manufacturing.

But to appease U.S. demands for greater access to Chinese markets, Beijing has pledged open its markets and roll out some relatively pain-free reforms such as new rules next year meant to make it easier for companies to do business in China.

RESHUFFLES

The Party will also look ahead to the next congress in 2022 at this plenum.

How exactly Xi’s continuation of power will be handled after presidential term limits were removed last year will be the “elephant in the room” at the plenum, one senior Western diplomat said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

“It’s unclear exactly what will happen in 2022,” the diplomat said.

One title Xi still does not hold is party chairman, and since the last party congress there has been speculation he could seek to resurrect the position.

Xi is the party’s general secretary, but not its chairman, a title Mao Zedong and his two successors, Hua Guofeng and Hu Yaobang, both held.

Xi also has no obvious successor.

But diplomats and leadership sources says several senior leaders could be in contention, most notably three people close to Xi: Shanghai party general-secretary Li Qiang, Chongqing party boss Chen Miner, and Guangdong party boss Li Xi.

The party has also lined up younger officials, born in the 1970s, from which it can choose the country’s next generation of leaders. Party bosses could spend the next few years promoting them to key regional positions as governors, ministers, or their equivalent.

Some of the notable young officials include 48-year-old Zhuge Yujie, general-secretary of the Party Committee of Shanghai; 49-year-old Shi Guanghui, who oversees political and legal affairs in Guizhou; and 46-year-old Guangxi deputy governor Yang Jinbai, according to leadership sources and experts.

(Reporting by Kevin Yao and Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Keith Zhai in Singapore; Editing by Ryan Woo and Gerry Doyle)

Pence tells Hong Kong protesters in China speech: ‘We stand with you’

Pence tells Hong Kong protesters in China speech: ‘We stand with you’
By Alexandra Alper

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday accused China of curtailing “rights and liberties” in Hong Kong in a wide-ranging critique of Beijing’s behavior but also insisted that the United States does not seek confrontation or to “de-couple” from its main economic rival.

Pence delivered a major policy address on China just ahead of a new round of talks aimed at resolving a bitter trade war between the world’s two biggest economies.

“No longer will America and its leaders hope that economic engagement alone will transform Communist China’s authoritarian state into a free and open society that respects private property, the rule of law, and the international rules of commerce,” he said.

Pence took China to task over its handling of pro-democracy protests that have rocked Hong Kong for more than four months. President Donald Trump has warned previously that it would be harder for Washington to make a trade deal with Beijing if there were violence in the former British colony.

“Hong Kong is a living example of what can happen when China embraces liberty,” he said. “And yet, for the last few years, Beijing has increased its interventions in Hong Kong and engaged in actions that curtail the rights and liberties that Hong Kong’s people were guaranteed through a binding international agreement.”

He said the United States stands with the protesters in Hong Kong.

“We stand with you, we are inspired by you. We urge you to stay on the path of non-violent protest,” Pence said.

U.S. lawmakers are pushing legislation that would put Hong Kong’s special status under tighter scrutiny, which would anger Beijing.

TRADE TALKS

The closely watched speech to a Washington think tank comes ahead of a new round of talks between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and his counterparts on Friday and was being seen as a gauge of how tough the Trump administration is prepared to get with China on a wide range of issues.

Pence, who has often struck a hawkish tone on China, spoke just weeks before Trump is due to attend a summit in Chile where he has said he hopes to close a “phase one” trade deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Fears of antagonizing Beijing prompted the White House in June to postpone the speech ahead of a meeting between the leaders aimed at getting trade talks back on track.

Pence said that United States is “not seeking to contain China’s development” “We want a constructive relationship with China’s leaders,” he said, calling on China to “seize this unique moment in history to start anew by ending the trade practices that have taken advantage of the American people for far too long.”

Pence on Thursday sharply criticized China for its treatment of Muslim Uighurs in the Xinjiang region.

Earlier this month, the United States imposed visa restrictions on Chinese government and Communist Party officials it believes responsible for the detention or abuse of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.

U.S. authorities this month also included Chinese video surveillance firm Hikvision on a trade blacklist for its alleged role in the Uighur crackdown.

Lawmakers such as Republican Senator Marco Rubio have also slammed Chinese companies for boycotting the NBA after Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey expressed solidarity with Hong Kong protesters.

Pence sharply criticized the basketball association for how it has handled the controversy.

“In siding with the Chinese Communist Party and silencing free speech, the NBA is acting like a wholly owned subsidiary of the authoritarian regime,” Pence said.

That spat played out amid unexpected progress in U.S.-China trade talks to end a 15-month trade war that has roiled markets and damaged global growth. The United States launched the trade war over allegations of unfair trading practices such as theft of U.S. intellectual property and generous industrial subsidies at the expense of foreign competitors.

(Reporting by Alexandra Alper; Additional reporting by David Lawder and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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)

Trump says likely won’t sign China trade deal until he meets with Xi

Trump says likely won’t sign China trade deal until he meets with Xi
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he likely would not sign any trade deal with China until he meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the upcoming APEC Forum in Chile.

Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, said the partial trade deal announced last week was in the process of being formalized.

“It’s being papered,” he said.

Trump, Xi and other heads of state are expected to participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum being held in Santiago from Nov. 11 to Nov. 17.

Last week, Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He announced the first phase of a deal to end the trade war between Beijing and Washington but did not offer many details.

China wants more talks as soon as the end of October to hammer out the details of the “phase one” pact, according to a Bloomberg report on Monday that cited people familiar with the matter.

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Makini Brice; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Toby Chopra and Chris Reese)

China wants tariffs cut to enable $50 billion imports from U.S.: Bloomberg

China wants tariffs cut to enable $50 billion imports from U.S.: Bloomberg
(Reuters) – China will struggle to buy $50 billion of U.S. farm goods annually unless the United States removes retaliatory tariffs on American products, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.

China would make the purchases only if U.S. President Donald Trump rolls back levies put in place since the trade war began, Bloomberg said https://bloom.bg/2OR9dvt, citing people familiar with the matter.

Trump said on Friday that China had agreed to purchase $40 billion to $50 billion worth of agricultural goods from the U.S. in a first phase of an agreement to end the trade war.

(Reporting by Bhargav Acharya and Rama Venkat in Bengaluru; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

China wants more talks before signing Trump’s ‘Phase 1’ deal: Bloomberg

(Reuters) – China wants more talks as soon as the end of October to hammer out the details of the “phase one” trade deal outlined by U.S. President Donald Trump before Chinese President Xi Jinping agrees to sign it, Bloomberg reported on Monday, citing people familiar with the matter.

Beijing may send a delegation led by Chinese Vice Premier Liu He to finalize a written deal that could be signed by the two leaders at the Asia-Pacific Cooperation summit next month in Chile, Bloomberg said.

China wants Trump to also scrap a planned tariff hike in December in addition to the hike scheduled for this week, the report added.

(Reporting by Rama Venkat in Bengaluru; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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)

U.S., China resume high-level talks to end grueling trade war

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Top U.S. and Chinese negotiators met on Thursday for the first time since late July to try to find a way out of a 15-month trade war as new irritants between the world’s two largest economies threatened hopes for progress.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer greeted Chinese Vice Premier Liu He on the steps of the USTR office before a meeting in which they will seek to narrow differences enough to avoid an escalation of tit-for-tat tariffs that have roiled financial markets and stoked fears of a global recession.

The mood surrounding the talks soured this week when the U.S. government blacklisted 28 Chinese public security bureaus, technology and surveillance firms and imposed visa restrictions on Chinese officials over allegations of abuses of Muslim minorities in China.

Beijing is planning to tighten visa restrictions for U.S. nationals with ties to anti-China groups, sources said.

U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to raise tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods on Oct. 15 if no progress is made in the on-again, off-again negotiations.

That would make nearly all Chinese goods imports into the United States – more than $500 billion – subject to tariffs.

“Big day of negotiations with China,” Trump said on Twitter. “They want to make a deal, but do I?” He added that he would be meeting with Liu at the White House on Friday.

Chinese officials indicated more willingness to negotiate. “The Chinese side came with great sincerity, willing to cooperate with the U.S. on the trade balance, market access and investor protection,” Xinhua quoted Liu as saying on Thursday.

A U.S. Chamber of Commerce official said there was a possibility U.S. and Chinese negotiators would reach a currency agreement in exchange for a delay of the tariff hikes.

Major U.S. stock exchanges were trading higher on hopes of progress in the talks.

Although some media reports suggested both sides are considering an “interim” deal that would suspend the planned further U.S. tariffs in exchange for additional purchases of American farm products, Trump has repeatedly dismissed this idea, insisting he wants a “big deal” with Beijing that addresses core intellectual property issues.

The U.S. Agriculture Department said on Thursday that private exporters reported a snap sale of 398,000 tonnes of soybeans to China, part of a flurry of purchases the top buyer of the oilseed has made since granting waivers to some importers to buy U.S. soy exempt from tariffs as a goodwill gesture.

Chinese firms have bought more than 3.5 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans since the beginning of September. Soybeans, the most valuable U.S. agricultural export, have been among the products hardest hit by China’s retaliatory tariffs.

LOWERED EXPECTATIONS

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.

But Chinese officials, surprised by the U.S. blacklisting of Chinese companies, including video surveillance gear maker Hikvision, along with the suspension of U.S. visas for some Chinese officials, told Reuters that Beijing had lowered expectations for significant progress from the talks.

“I’ve never seen China respond with concessions to someone throwing down the gauntlet in this manner,” said Scott Kennedy, a China trade expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “It suggests to me that the U.S. may have determined that progress was impossible, so everyone is just going through the motions.”

Other flashpoints that have cropped up in recent days include China’s swift action to cut corporate ties to the National Basketball Association over a team official’s tweet in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in Sydney on Thursday that the tariffs were working, forcing Beijing to pay attention to American concerns about its trade practices.

“We do not love tariffs – in fact we would prefer not to use them – but after years of discussions and no action, tariffs are finally forcing China to pay attention to our concerns,” Ross said in remarks prepared for delivery on an official visit to Australia.

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Paul Simao)