China will “significantly increase purchases” of US goods, the White House said as Beijing’s special envoy at talks in Washington declared a trade war has been averted between the world’s two largest economies.
A joint statement released by the White House following the talks didn’t place a dollar figure on the increased purchases by China, or address a comment by President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser suggesting Beijing had agreed to slash its annual trade surplus with the US by $200 billion.
Vice Premier Liu He, a special envoy of China’s President Xi Jinping, told reporters in Washington that talks with US officials, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, ended with a pledge not to engage in a trade war, according to a Xinhua news agency report.
Liu said the two sides agreed to stop “slapping tariffs’ on each other, Xinhua reported. Liu said his trip to the US had been positive, pragmatic, constructive and productive. Trade cooperation would be enhanced in such areas as energy, agriculture, health care, high-tech products and finance, a “win-win” choice for both nations.
“There was a consensus on taking effective measures to substantially reduce the United States trade deficit in goods with China,” the White House said.
The delegations also discussed expanding trade in manufactured goods, and each side agreed to strengthen cooperation on intellectual property. China will “advance relevant amendments” to its laws and and regulations in that area, including its patent law, the White House said.
On Friday morning, Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, told reporters that China had offered to reduce its annual trade surplus with the US by “at least $200 billion.”
“The number’s a good number,” Kudlow said outside the White House.
Earlier, two posts on Chinese state social media disputed a report that China planned to slash its trade surplus by the extent demanded by Washington though increased imports of US products. A foreign ministry official also played down the suggestion.
In a sign that the Chinese government is seeking a conciliatory stance, it announced on Friday it was ending an anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigation into imports of US sorghum, citing “public interest.” That move came days after it restarted a review of Qualcomm Inc.’s application to acquire NXP Semiconductors NV.
A $200 billion reduction in the US trade gap with China by 2020 was on a list of demands the US made earlier this month as Mnuchin led a delegation to Beijing. That mission left with little common ground with China and reports emerging of infighting among the US officials. The US merchandise trade deficit with China hit a record $375 billion last year.
Mnuchin and Kudlow will appear on US political talk shows on Sunday.
Trump’s administration has threatened to impose tariffs on as much as $150 billion of Chinese imports to the US as tensions over trade have escalated. Trump expressed doubt before his meeting with Liu that China and the US would come to an agreement to avoid a damaging trade war.
Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer criticized a lack of specific measures in the joint statement to protect US intellectual property and stop China “from keeping our best goods until we hand over our trade secrets.”
Schumer noted that the statement also didn’t mention ZTE Corp., the Chinese telecom company that Trump a week ago ordered the US Commerce Department to get help back into business after “too many jobs in China lost” because of recent US action.
“If the administration capitulates on ZTE and allows it to continue to exist,” Schumer said, “that will signal to President Xi that we are weak negotiators.”
Kudlow said Friday that ZTE may need to change its management to win a reprieve from US sanctions that shut it off from key parts suppliers.