U.S., China leave next steps for trade talks unclear

The growing optimism allowed traders to overlook a report of a steep inventory jump for USA gasoline and diesel.

Lighthizer's stance was clearly evident in the USTR press release, which emphasized both structural issues and the need for "complete implementation subject to ongoing verification and effective enforcement" of any eventual agreement.

The U.S. also said the negotiations "focused on China's pledge to purchase a substantial amount of agricultural, energy, manufactured goods and other products and services from the United States". China is facing a slowdown in economic growth, in part as a result of falling exports to the US. China retaliated with tariffs of its own.

The bank now expects Brent to average $61 a barrel this year, down from a previous estimate of $69, and USA crude to average $54, against a prior forecast of $60.

U.S. stock-index futures climbed during the Asia trading day with March contracts on the S&P 500 Index gaining as much as 0.5%.

In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline added 0.4 percent to $1.43 a gallon and heating oil rose 1.3 percent to $1.91 a gallon. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 6.63 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,445.43.

China's position on trade is "transparent and the US side is well aware of it", said Lu Kang.

The latest talks lasted for three days in Beijing - one day longer than had been previously announced, which analysts said indicated the discussions were making some progress. "The US is very clear about China's stance".

Big spending on commodities and goods would send a positive signal on China's intent to work with the United States, but would do nothing to resolve the US demands that require hard structural change from China.

USA and Chinese officials also discussed issues related to intellectual property protections and the need for any agreement that resolves the trade dispute "to provide for complete implementation subject to ongoing verification and effective enforcement", the USTR was quoted as saying. Trump tweeted on Tuesday as the second day of mid-level meetings wrapped up.

However, a USTR statement emphasized American insistence on "structural changes" in Chinese technology policy, market access, protection of foreign patents and copyrights and cyber theft of trade secrets.

Chinese officials have suggested that Beijing might alter its industrial plans, but reject pressure to abandon what they consider a path to prosperity and global influence.

The truce came after the two sides imposed import duties on more than $300 billion of each other's goods.

Trump is increasingly eager to reach an agreement to help lift the markets, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with internal White House deliberations. Had a deal not been struck, tariffs on US$200bn worth of Chinese goods would have risen from 10% to 25% on 1 January 2019. Forecasters expect American orders to slump this year.

The group also urged the removal of US tariffs when China delivers on its promises.

China's top economic official, Premier Li Keqiang, has met with the CEO of electric auto brand Tesla Inc., Elon Musk.

Earlier this week, China approved five genetically modified (GM) crops for import, the first in about 18 months, which could boost its overseas grains purchases and ease USA pressure to open its markets to more farm goods.

Tesla broke ground this week in Shanghai on its first factory outside the United States.

China is the largest electric vehicle market and is strongly encouraging its development.

Trade officials had scheduled two days of talks in Beijing in an effort to resolve their conflict this week, but extended those by an extra day after the meetings struck a positive tone. "I really believe they want to make a deal". The US delegation were seen carrying their luggage with them as they left their hotel for the negotiations on Wednesday morning. "That shows both sides are serious about the talks", Lu said. -China Business Council, which represents American companies that do business with China. While Beijing regards these plans as essential to China's continued economic growth, Washington is hostile to the threat that it poses not only to the dominant position of U.S. corporations, but also to USA military superiority.

The Global Times commentary said China's growing economy means it can "carry out a more intense boycott" of trade with the United States if needed. "It's probably going to take a little longer".

A woman tries out a sweater at a US retailer GAP's flagship store in Beijing, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. They say China's companies are treated unfairly in national security reviews of proposed corporate acquisitions, though nearly all deals are approved unchanged.

Liu led a previous round of talks in Washington a year ago that ended in failure, and he's expected to meet chief US negotiator Robert Lighthizer later this month.

Vanessa Coleman

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