The U.S. and China are taking baby steps to ease tensions in their trade war, as negotiators prepare for the resumption of face-to-face talks in Washington in the coming weeks.
On Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump said he was postponing the imposition of 5% extra tariffs on Chinese goods by two weeks, meaning Chinese officials can celebrate their Oct. 1 national day without a fresh escalation.
Meanwhile, China is considering whether to permit renewed imports of American farm goods including soybeans and pork, according to people familiar with the situation, potentially taking some pressure off U.S. states with large numbers of Trump supporters. The Ministry of Commerce said Thursday Chinese companies have started inquiring about prices for U.S. agricultural products including soybeans and pork.
At the request of the Vice Premier of China, Liu He, and due to the fact that the People's Republic of China will be celebrating their 70th Anniversary....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 11, 2019
....on October 1st, we have agreed, as a gesture of good will, to move the increased Tariffs on 250 Billion Dollars worth of goods (25% to 30%), from October 1st to October 15th.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 11, 2019
Trump escalated the U.S.-China trade war in August when he announced an increase in levies on Chinese goods. That was in response to higher Chinese tariffs which were a reaction to a previous increase by the U.S.
China welcomes the postponement of U.S. tariffs as a goodwill gesture, Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng said at Thursday’s regular briefing. Mid-level teams will meet soon to prepare for higher level talks, he said, reiterating that both sides are communicating without giving a date for the meeting between the top negotiators.
Any further agricultural purchases are yet to be made and the volumes are still undecided, the people said. China had halted U.S. farm-product imports in August after negotiations deteriorated.
Earlier on Wednesday, China announced a range of U.S. goods would be exempted from 25% tariffs put in place last year, as the government seeks to ease the impact from the trade war. While that move may create some good will in Washington, China didn’t exempt agricultural goods produced in key Trump-supporting states.
Welcome this decision. It should be seen as a goodwill gesture the US side made for creating good vibes for the trade talks scheduled in early October. Yesterday China announced to remove 16 categories of US products from tariff list. Hope reciprocity of goodwill can continue. https://t.co/OWjGIQ4TPl— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) September 12, 2019
“Trump’s goodwill gesture suggests that the trade war is starting to bite and the U.S. may be more eager to close a deal,” said Chua Hak Bin, an economist at Maybank Kim Eng Research Pte. in Singapore. “The clock is ticking and Trump’s approval ratings are sliding, with manufacturing now in recession.”
Despite the goodwill gestures, the two sides remain far apart on fundamental issues, and officials continue to trade barbs. China wants the U.S. to remove all extra tariffs, and the U.S. has long sought concessions on intellectual property and state-subsidies for industry that Beijing has been unwilling to give.
— With assistance by Shuping Niu, Steven Yang, Isis Almeida, Kevin Hamlin, John Harney, Yinan Zhao, and Miao Han