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China Says in Principle Door Is Open to Trade Talks; Set to Increase Cotton Imports

The latest round of U.S.-China negotiations ended on Sunday with the U.S. delegation leaving Beijing. China warned that any tariffs imposed by Washington would derail any agreements between the two sides, but said today that it remained open to dialogue.

Reuters
    Jun 04, 2018 8:28 AM  PT
China Says in Principle Door Is Open to Trade Talks; Set to Increase Cotton Imports

China's door to talks is open in principle, the country's Foreign Ministry said on Monday, a day after Beijing warned that any trade and business deals reached with Washington would be void if the United States implemented tariffs.

The United States and China have threatened tit-for-tat tariffs on goods worth up to $150 billion each, as U.S. President Donald Trump has pushed Beijing to open its economy further and address the United States' large trade deficit with China.

The two countries ended their latest round of negotiations on Sunday with U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and his delegation leaving Beijing without making a public statement. China also made no mention of any new agreements.

Following Chinese Vice Premier He Liu's talks with Ross, China referred instead to a consensus reached last month in Washington, when China agreed to increase significantly its purchases of U.S. goods and services.

It also warned that any tariffs and other trade measures imposed by Washington would derail any agreements between the two sides.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Chunying Hua referred questions to the country's Commerce Ministry when asked at a regular news briefing when and where a next round of talks might occur, and if Liu was preparing to go to the United States.

"But I think China's position in principle is very clear, which is that China's door to dialogue and consultations is always open," Hua said.

China is sincere in wanting to "appropriately resolve" the problem via talks, she said, without elaborating.

China's State Council Information Office and the Commerce Ministry did not reply to Reuters' request for comment on the issue.

The U.S. delegation conveyed Trump's goal of a fair trading relationship with China, the White House said in a statement.

"The meetings focused on reducing the United States' trade deficit by facilitating the supply of agricultural and energy products to meet China's growing consumption needs, which will help support growth and employment in the United States," it said.

Trump weighed in on Twitter early Monday by saying, "China already charges a tax of 16% on soybeans. Canada has all sorts of trade barriers on our Agricultural products. Not acceptable!"

Later he tweeted that American farmers have been treated unfairly by China, Canada, and Mexico for 15 years, but that he would change that.

In an editorial, the official state-run China Daily said the outcome of the weekend talks suggested both sides had continued to take a constructive approach, but warned of Trump's unpredictability.

"Trump claims that he is seeking fairness and reciprocity in the U.S.' economic relationship with China but, so far, he has sought to extort gains from China using the economic advantages the U.S. has," it said.

At the end of last month's talks in Washington the two countries released a joint statement and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin later said the trade war was "on hold."

But just when it appeared a trade truce between the two economic heavyweights was on the cards, the White House last week warned it would pursue tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports, as well as impose restrictions on Chinese investments in the United States and tighter export controls.

The heightened trade tensions with China come as Trump has angered U.S. allies, including Canada, Mexico and the European Union, with tariffs on metal imports.

China Ready to Import More Cotton

China is set to boost its imports of cotton by issuing additional import quotas to mills, said the China Cotton Association on Monday, a move seen by the market as another step toward meeting the demands of top exporter the United States.

China's domestic cotton futures have rallied nearly 18 percent since early April, fueled in part by worries over crop damage from heavy rains, as well as by heavy speculation.

Traders said China's move, however, was more likely related to pressure from the United States for higher imports of American farm goods.

"It's definitely related to trade talks," said a China-based trader with an international firm.

The United States is the world's top cotton exporter and China's top overseas supplier. It shipped around 500,000 tons to China in 2017, making cotton the third most valuable U.S. farm export, behind soybeans and hides and skins.

But China has restricted its imports since 2014, offering only the 894,000 ton in tariff-rate quotas it must allocate as part of its commitments to the World Trade Organization.

Additional quotas with sliding tariff rates that were issued prior to 2014 were halted in order to get rid of the huge state stocks. Total imports in 2017 were 1.16 million tons.

It wasn't clear when the new quota would be released or how much would be offered, though the international firm's trader said he expected at least 500,000 tons.

Despite the move to boost imports, the China Cotton Association said supplies were "basically sufficient," and that "abnormal fluctuations in the current market are influenced by speculation and other factors."


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