China trade talks extended, amid continuing obstacles

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"Both sides agreed to keep in close contact", the statement said.

China and the United States "conducted extensive, in-depth and meticulous exchanges. which enhanced mutual understanding and laid the foundation for resolving issues of mutual concern", the Chinese commerce ministry said in a statement.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday the two sides were narrowing their differences, with Chinese officials offering greater purchases of USA goods and services and Cabinet-level follow-up meetings expected later this month.

Both sides have actively implemented the significant consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries and conducted extensive, in-depth and detailed exchanges on trade and structural issues of common concern, said the statement.

The discussions during the past two days "went well", according to Steven Winberg, an Energy Department official who spoke to reporters in Beijing. A leaked photo of the first day of discussions showed Liu present at the venue, along with Commerce Minister Zhong Shan and Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen (the official head of the Chinese delegation).

U.S. Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney walks into a hotel after a second day of meetings with Chinese officials in Beijing, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019.

China has imposed penalties on $110 billion of American goods, slowing customs clearance for US companies and suspending issuing licenses in finance and other businesses.

Washington is pressing Beijing for changes including rolling back plans for government-led creation of Chinese global champions in robotics and other fields. It gave no sign of progress in those areas.

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Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed on December 1 to postpone more tariff hikes on each other's goods for 90 days while they negotiate.

President Donald Trump campaigned in 2016 on cracking down on what he called Chinese trade abuses, and both countries have been at odds for about a year.

"There are a lot of different opinions and disputes, but both sides need these kind of collisions at this time, and to make known their demands, positions and views to the other party", he said, adding that the next round of talks would be about bridging these differences.

Notably, in Thursday's press conference in Beijing, Gao avoided verifying some of the specifics of the USTR press release, including the promise for China to purchase increased amounts of US goods as well as the specific list of issues covered. In June, the USA exported 630,000 tonnes of soybeans to China, but that figure fell to zero in November after China imposed an additional 25 percent tariff. USA government data shows the Asian nation scooped up more than 2.6 million metric tons of beans in December and at least another 1.3 million were sold this year, according to people familiar with the matter.

As Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of China's Global Times newspaper, noted on Twitter, trade issues were addressed "most smoothly".

It softened its stand by offering a mix of concessions by resuming purchases of United States soybeans, suspended punitive tariffs on imports of U.S. cars and toned down its "Made in China 2025" plan, which aimed at breaking the country's reliance on foreign technology and pull its hi-tech industries up to western levels.

China's trade data for the full year of 2018 is due to be released on January 14, and economists see year-on-year export growth slowing in December from November.

Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng gestures as journalists raise hands for questions during a press conference at the Ministry of Commerce in Beijing, April 6, 2018.

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