China promises prompt action on USA trade pact

A woman walks past an electronic board showing Hong Kong share index outside a local bank in Hong Kong Wednesday Dec. 5 2018. Shares were moderatel

A woman walks past an electronic board showing Hong Kong share index outside a local bank in Hong Kong Wednesday Dec. 5 2018. Shares were moderatel

Chinese shares closed lower on Wednesday amid similar doubts.

The latest on China-U.S. trade developments (all times local): 9:37 a.m. President Donald Trump is expressing optimism that China will to push forward with a cease fire on trade as tensions between...

China has promised to act quickly but failed to release details. "Officials now face the hard task of fleshing out a deal that is acceptable to the Chinese but also involves significant enough concessions not to be torpedoed by the China hawks in the Trump administration", Capital Economics said in a note this week, adding that higher tariffs could simply be delayed. That, coupled with conflicting statements by Trump and US officials, helped trigger a tumble in USA stock prices Tuesday amid doubt about the chances for a lasting settlement of a battle over technology that threatens to chill global economic growth.

Talks during the 90 day period during which President Donald Trump has agreed to suspend US tariff hikes will start by focusing on farm goods, energy and automobiles, said a Ministry of Commerce spokesman, Gao Feng.

The two sides have a "clear timetable and road map" for talks, the ministry said, but gave no details. The ministry didn't respond to requests by phone and fax for information.

Asked to confirm US President Donald Trump's statement that Beijing promised to immediately buy American goods, Gao said China would "immediately implement the consensus reached by the two sides on farm products, cars and energy" but said nothing about purchases. USA markets were closed on Wednesday to observe former President George H.W. Bush's death, but the effect of Wall Street's turmoil the previous day was felt in Europe and Asia with the benchmark Shanghai stock index closing down 0.6 percent.

The delay "isn't a sign of rejection, but of cautiousness", said Ma.

On Tuesday night, the president threatened "major Tariffs" on Chinese products shipped to the United States if his administration fails to strike a final trade pact with Beijing. "Chinese society should maintain a calm attitude", it said.

A Chinese official told Reuters that officials were "waiting for the leaders to return" before publicising details. They have rejected pressure to scrap strategies they see as a path to prosperity and global influence, but foreign analysts say they might be starting to understand the depth of foreign opposition to their plans.

Chinese imports of American soybeans fell 95 percent in October compared to previous year, damaging the prospects of Midwest farmers who are in the middle of harvest.

Despite the Chinese silence, the "atmosphere is more constructive" and Beijing might be more willing to negotiate, Kuijs said. It also would begin buying products from USA farmers "immediately". America has probably already missed its best chance to sell soybeans to China, according to Cargill Inc., one of the world's biggest agriculture commodity traders. "Am I getting that right?"

Questions began to swirl after China's foreign minister read a statement Saturday in Buenos Aires that said Washington agreed to halt tariff hikes. But Trump spent much of Tuesday threatening to increase existing tariffs and impose new ones if the two sides can't make a deal. Even so, Asia's biggest gas consumer imported at least one USA cargo in November, according to vessel-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg, and there's another en route.

Analysts noted, however, there were no additional enforcement efforts.

The president, China's most powerful leader since at least the 1980s, flew from Argentina to Panama for an official visit and on Wednesday was in Portugal.

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