China says US trade talks 'laid foundation' to resolve concerns

Last month the US Commerce Department placed Chinese tech giant Huawei and dozens of its affiliates on an "entity list" on grounds of national security (AFP Photo/FRED DUFOUR)

China said Thursday that trade talks in Beijing with a US negotiating team had "laid the foundation" to resolve concerns held by both sides in a bruising trade war.

US officials visited Beijing from Monday to Wednesday for the first sit-down talks since President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed on December 1 to a three-month truce in the escalating spat.

World markets rose Wednesday on increasing optimism that the two sides would be able to hammer out a deal ahead of a March deadline and avert further import tariff hikes -- though Asian stocks were mostly down on Thursday.

China and the US "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.

"Both parties agreed to continue to maintain close contact."

Washington has been clamouring for an end to the forced transfer -- and even theft -- of American technology and intellectual property, as well as steep government subsidies for Chinese companies.

When asked about progress in those areas on Thursday, China's commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng said that structural issues were a focus of the talks.

"Negotiations between the two sides in this area made progress," he said.

The US Trade Representative office said Wednesday that the talks focused on "ways to achieve fairness, reciprocity, and balance in trade relations", as well as the need for "ongoing verification and effective enforcement" of any agreement.

For Washington, ensuring China makes good on its pledges is key -- and Gao acknowledged that was important to China as well on Thursday.

"The Chinese side also believes that the implementation mechanism of any agreement is very important and both parties have an obligation to carry it out," Gao told reporters during a regular press conference.

"For the next step, both sides will continue to work hard together, and advance the negotiation work according to the original plan."

The Trump administration also wants Beijing to buy more American goods to narrow a yawning trade gap -- a sticking point for US president -- and allow foreign players better access to the Chinese market.

"The talks also focused on China's pledge to purchase a substantial amount of agricultural, energy, manufactured goods, and other products and services from the United States," USTR said in a statement.

Gao declined to provide details when asked about purchases on Thursday.