China responds to US goodwill gesture with purchase of farm goods

By Xie Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2019/9/25 22:48:41

Farm goods deals generate good vibe for talks, but uncertainty remains: analysts

Soybeans are loaded into a grain cart during harvest in the US state of Illinois in 2018. Photo: VCG

China has moved swiftly in responding to the latest goodwill gesture from the US by encouraging Chinese companies to buy a "certain amount of" US soybeans, pork and other products, as part of an effort by both sides to create positive vibes for ongoing trade negotiations.

While the exchange of goodwill gestures injects fresh momentum into the talks, uncertainty remains about whether the two economic powers can reach a deal in upcoming meetings and end the costly trade war. The ball is in Washington's court, Chinese analysts noted on Wednesday.

The Chinese side supports companies to purchase a "certain amount of" soybeans, pork and other agricultural products from the US, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Tuesday. Those purchases could be exempted from Chinese tariffs imposed in retaliation against US tariffs, Xinhua said.

However, the purchases will be based on market principles and WTO rules, according to Xinhua, a clear reiteration of China's earlier stance that the US request for agricultural purchases must be reasonable. Xinhua billed the move as a "positive response" toward the US announcement of a list of Chinese products exempted from its tariffs.

The US announced on Friday that it was exempting more than 400 types of Chinese goods from tariffs. But some analysts in China said that the move was mostly aimed at easing pain on its own companies.

Better atmosphere

"Both the US and China are making efforts to improve the climate for negotiations to push the trade talks further," He Weiwen, an executive council member of the China Society for World Trade Organization Studies, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

In mid-September, the US announced a decision to delay imposing additional tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods by about two weeks, from October 1 to October 15. In response, China said that domestic companies were inquiring about prices of US soybeans and pork.

Chinese customs data showed that China imported 1.68 million tons of soybeans from the US in August, according to media reports on Wednesday. A Reuters report also noted that Chinese importers bought about 10 boatloads of US soybeans on Monday following deputy-level trade talks in Washington last week.

Wang Jun, a deputy director of the department of information at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, also told the Global Times that this at least showed the goodwill and efforts made by the two countries' trade negotiation teams. 

Uncertainty remains 

However, "there are still many uncertainties about the trade talks' future direction," Wang said.

Though the two sides have agreed to hold a new round of high-level talks in Washington in October, Chinese officials have not yet announced any specific dates. Geng Shuang, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, on Tuesday declined to confirm reports in US media that the negotiations will be held on October 10 and 11.

He Weiwen said there's no clear trend in the China-US trade talks. "I think whether the talks will succeed depends a lot on the sincerity of the US government," he said.

In announcing the support of US agricultural purchases on Tuesday, relevant departments expressed hope that the US will meet China halfway and create favorable conditions for bilateral cooperation in agriculture and other areas, according to the Xinhua report.

On Wednesday, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who is in New York attending the UN General Assembly, warned against some US officials' push for decoupling between the two countries.

"[China] has the world's biggest and most promising market with the largest and fastest-growing middle-income population. Decoupling from the Chinese economy would be decoupling from opportunities, and from the future," he said at a dinner hosted by organizations involved in China-US ties.
Newspaper headline: China responds to US goodwill gesture

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