The Trump administration is pushing for a way to make sure China delivers on its commitments in any deal the two nations reach to a trade war that has roiled financial markets and dimmed the outlook for global growth.
The U.S. wrapped up three days of mid-level talks with China in Beijing on Wednesday, noting a commitment by President Xi Jinping’s government to buy more U.S. agricultural goods, energy and manufactured products.
But in a statement Wednesday, the office of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer also said it wants any deal to include “ongoing verification and effective enforcement.” The U.S. will decide on next steps after officials report back to Washington, USTR said.
Investors welcomed signs of optimism from the talks. Stocks rose globally after the two economic powers appeared to inch closer to an agreement, with the S&P 500 Index rising for a fourth day to the highest in almost a month.
Yet the U.S. push for enforceable targets in a deal underscores the challenge of reaching a lasting truce. President Donald Trump and his deputies have criticized China for failing to live up to past promises, including a pledge to promptly open up the Asian nation’s economy to more trade and investment after it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.
Trump and Xi have given their officials until March 1 to reach an accord on “structural changes” to China’s economy on issues such as the forced transfer of American technology, intellectual-property rights, and non-tariff barriers. It’s a tight window in which to nail down deep changes to China’s economic model, some of which past U.S. administrations advocated for years and U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle support.
A group representing American companies doing business in China welcomed the “substantive discussions,” but stressed the need to work out key details. “Progress should include a mechanism for the removal of tariffs and measurable, commercially meaningful outcomes,” the U.S.-China Business Council said in a statement. The U.S. and China have slapped a tariffs on a combined $360 billion in each other’s imports since July.
The USTR statement didn’t say whether progress had been achieved on its main concerns China was believed to be preparing its own separate statement on the talks.
The World Bank this week cut its outlook for the global economy as growth in trade and investment slowed and rising interest rates sapped momentum, especially in emerging markets.