Beijing boosts purchases ahead of talks

Top News | AGENCIES 10 Oct 2019

China is still open to agreeing to a partial trade deal with the United States, an official with direct knowledge of the talks said, signaling that Beijing is focused on limiting the damage to the world's second-largest economy.

This comes as Chinese officials are said to be offering to increase annual purchases of US agricultural products.

Beijing will offer to boost annual purchase of soybeans to 30 million tonnes from 20 million tonnes currently, adding the increase will be equivalent to about US$3.25 billion (HK$25.35 billion) in additional orders.

Beijing last month increased its purchases of US agricultural products including soybeans and pork.

Negotiators heading to Washington for talks starting today are not optimistic about securing a broad agreement that would end the trade war for good, said the official.

But China would accept a limited deal as long as no more tariffs are imposed by President Donald Trump, including two rounds of higher duties set to take effect this month and in December, the official said.

China - led by Vice Premier Liu He - has low expectations that a trade agreement can be reached soon, according to an editorial in state-run Global Times newspaper.

"There are obviously many trade differences between the two countries, the attitude of the United States is not sincere, the area of conflict is growing broader, and strategic mutual distrust is increasing," the piece said.

"The United States has always emphasized its strengths, but the problem is that its actual advantage is far from supporting its demands on China, and Washington seems to have not understood this."

The latest round of talks comes just days after the White House announced the blacklisting of Chinese technology firms over their alleged role in oppression in the far west region of Xinjiang, as well as visa bans on officials linked to the mass detention of Muslims.

The State Department did not name the Chinese officials affected by the visa clampdown.

Huo Jianguo, a former Chinese commerce ministry official who is now vice chairman of the China Society For World Trade Organization Studies, said: "I think there might be big breakthrough in the coming trade talks as both sides have expressed good gestures and positive signals.

"The recent blacklist and sanctions are just another usual tactic to showcase that the United States has multiple tools in the trade negotiations in line with Trump's maximum pressure policy. It is hardly surprising to us and we shouldn't take it too seriously."

China strongly urges the United States to remove sanctions on Chinese firms and will take any necessary measures to firmly protect its own interests, China's commerce ministry said.

The ministry said it urges Washington to stop making irresponsible remarks.

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