China is said to want more talks on trade

U.S. deal reportedly still lacking for Xi

China wants to hold more talks this month to hammer out the details of the "phase one" trade deal with the U.S. touted by President Donald Trump before China's president, Xi Jinping, agrees to sign it, according to people familiar with the matter.

China may send a delegation led by Vice Premier Liu He, China's top negotiator, to finalize a written deal that could be signed by the presidents at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit next month in Chile, one of the people said.

Another person said China wants Trump to scrap a planned tariff increase in December in addition to the increase that was scheduled for this week, something the administration hasn't yet endorsed. The people asked not to be named discussing the private negotiations.

The U.S. and China have emerged from last week's talks with different takes on what's in the accord and how close they are to signing a document. Trump said "we've come to a deal, pretty much, subject to getting it written" and indicated it might take several more weeks of negotiation. China's Ministry of Commerce merely said that "the two sides have made substantial progress" and "agreed to work together in the direction of a final agreement." The state-run Xinhua news agency didn't mention a deal either.

Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of the Global Times, said in a tweet that "China-U.S. trade talks made breakthrough last week and the two sides have the strong will to reach a final deal." The Chinese tabloid is run by the People's Daily, which is the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party.

Friday's announcement was "a nothing-burger," said Scott Kennedy, who analyzes China's economy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "I call it the 'Invisible Deal.' ... The only thing that happened Friday was that the U.S. delayed the tariff increase."

The Trump administration acknowledges that work remains to be done on what it calls "phase one" of ongoing talks with China.


Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, speaking in an interview Monday on CNBC, said he expects officials to work in coming weeks to get the first stage ready for both sides to sign. If that doesn't happen, the new U.S. import taxes on Chinese products will be imposed starting Dec. 15, he said.

"I expect there will be a deal," Mnuchin said Monday. The sides made "substantial progress" last week in negotiations, Mnuchin said, and he expects Trump and Xi to finalize the accord at the summit in Chile next month.

Taoran Notes, a state-affiliated blog that focuses on the trade talks, said that the difference in tone struck by Chinese media was due to "cultural and language" differences and both sides are in consensus over the deal.

China's Ministry of Commerce did not immediately respond to a request for comment on further talks. Geng Shuang, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, reiterated on Monday that both sides had made progress and said he hoped "the U.S. will work with China and meet each other halfway."

Investors have struggled to determine whether the U.S. and China reached a breakthrough in the trade war. Worse-than-expected September trade figures in China underscored the growing pressure on both Trump and Xi to reach a deal to avert a wider slowdown in the global economy.

"The U.S. must concede on its December tariff threat if they want to sign a deal during the APEC summit, otherwise it would be a humiliating treaty for China," said Huo Jianguo, a former Chinese commerce ministry official who is now vice chairman of the China Society for World Trade Organization Studies. "The U.S. has definitely shown some good gestures but we shouldn't exclude the possibility of another flip-flop."

China's trade with the United States fell by double digits again in September.

Exports to the United States, China's biggest foreign market, fell 21.9% to $36.5 billion, a deterioration from August's 16% decline, customs data showed Monday. Imports of American goods sank 15.7% from the year before to $10.6 billion, an improvement over the previous month's 22% fall.

"The external environment facing China's foreign trade development is still complicated and severe. Instability and uncertainty are increasing," a customs agency spokesman, Li Kuiwen, said at a news conference.

Tariff increases on billions of dollars of each other's goods have battered manufacturers and farmers on both sides and disrupted supply chains worldwide. Uncertainty has prompted some companies to postpone investments, adding to downward pressure on global growth and fueling financial market jitters.

China's global exports fell 1.4% from a year earlier to $218.1 billion. Imports fell 5.8% to $178.5 billion.

The slump adds to pressure on China's government to shore up cooling economic growth and prevent politically risky job losses.

Chinese economic growth fell to its lowest level in at least 26 years in the quarter ending in June, decelerating to 6.2% over a year earlier.

Forecasters expect growth in the July-September quarter, scheduled to be reported this week, to fall further to as low as 5.9%, sinking below the ruling Communist Party's official target for the year of at least 6%.

"While import growth should start to recover soon, it will take longer before export growth bottoms out," said Martin Lynge Rasmussen of Capital Economics in a report. "The mini U.S.-China trade deal reached on Friday doesn't alter the outlook significantly."

The country's politically sensitive trade surplus with the United States contracted by 16.5% from a year earlier but stood at $25.9 billion.

Increased exports to Britain and other European countries and developing markets such as Vietnam helped to offset some of the losses. China's global trade surplus expanded by 42.2% to $39.7 billion.

For the first nine months of the year, Chinese imports of American goods were off 26.4% at $90.6 billion. Exports to the United States were off 10.7% at $312 billion.

Information for this article was contributed by William Edwards and Caitlin Webber of Bloomberg News and by Joe McDonald, Paul Wiseman, Dave Kolpack and David Pitt of The Associated Press.

A Section on 10/15/2019