Trade talks beget cautious optimism

Source:Global Times Published: 2019/1/10 19:28:22

The China-US vice-ministerial level trade talks ended in Beijing on Wednesday after extending into an unscheduled third day. The negotiations mustered cautious optimism about the next step of consultations.   

China and the US issued short statements after the talks concluded. The Chinese side said the talks were extensive, deep and meticulous and established a foundation for the resolution of each other's concerns, while the US side said the negotiators focused on Washington's concerns about China's pledge to buy a substantial amount of US agricultural, energy and manufacturing products as well as China's approach to intellectual property protection. Both made no mention of an agreement. 

The vice-ministerial level talks were devoted to solving specific differences and both sides worked hard. It's said they sometimes had no time for meals. But both statements are cautious. This corresponds to the level of the talks. Despite their importance, the talks were aimed at paving the way for higher-level negotiations. 

Both statements emphasized the latest talks implemented the consensus reached by the two heads of state in Argentina. The two sides agreed to continue to maintain close contact, sparking optimism for future negotiations.  

In some analyses by foreign media, the US has become more willing to end the trade war with China and US leaders have expressed more optimism about reaching a deal. The US media has ratcheted up their criticism of the trade war for its negative impact on the US economy. The US stock market surged with the easing of China-US trade tensions. 

Cooperation to solve problems is no longer solely called for by China, but has become appealing to both countries. That change didn't come easy. 

The trade war has lasted more than nine months and has prompted China and the US to regard each other's strength, attitude and demands more seriously, avoiding some misjudgments. A trade war can only play a limited role in coercing others. The US initially thought China would yield to pressure. This was too unrealistic.

China has accelerated the pace of reform and opening-up. The trade war did not slow down implementation of China's plan to expand market opening. Objectively speaking, China needs to deepen reform. China can respond positively to US demands for structural changes, such as by lowering tariffs, strengthening protection of intellectual property and lowering the market access threshold. But China cannot accept those demands that challenge China's national system and ideological management. 

A trade war is a losers' game. It is increasingly hurting US finance, production and consumption. China is not as strong as the US, but the Chinese system can bear more difficulties, as shown in the past nine months. 

Looking forward to 2019, should the trade war continue, both China and the US will lose. Both sides increasingly expect to reach a deal that can stimulate their economies. Despite the progress at vice-ministerial level talks, this is far from the end of negotiations. Uncertainties may still emerge. Some US elites are stuck in a new Cold War mentality against China. Their ability to make a stir cannot be underestimated. 

It's hoped that China and the US will abide by the consensus reached by the two leaders in Argentina, cherish the hard-won progress and reach a mutually beneficial agreement. This will benefit the two peoples and the whole world.

Posted in: EDITORIAL

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