China says hopes it can reach trade agreement with US as soon as possible

US advisers said there were no plans for Trump and Jinping to meet. (AFP)
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Updated 09 December 2019

China says hopes it can reach trade agreement with US as soon as possible

  • Washington’s next round of tariffs against Chinese goods are scheduled to take effect on Dec. 15

BEIJING: China said on Monday that it hoped to make a trade deal with the US as soon as possible, amid intense discussions before fresh US tariffs on Chinese imports are due to kick in at the end of the week.

Beijing hopes it can reach a trade agreement with the US that satisfies both sides, Assistant Commerce Minister Ren Hongbin told reporters on Monday.

“On the question of China-US trade talks and negotiations, we wish that both sides can, on the foundation of equality and mutual respect, push forward negotiations, and in consideration of each others’ core interests, reach an agreement that satisfies all sides as soon as possible,” Ren said.

China and the US are negotiating a so-called “phase one” deal aimed at de-escalating their prolonged trade dispute, but it is unclear whether such an agreement can be reached in the near term.

Washington’s next round of tariffs against Chinese goods are scheduled to take effect on Dec. 15.

China has demanded that some of the existing US tariffs imposed on about $375 billion worth of its exports be removed, in addition to cancelation of the Dec. 15 tariffs on some $156 billion of its remaining exports to the US.

US President Donald Trump has demanded that China commit to specific minimum purchases of US agricultural products, among other concessions on intellectual property rights, currency and access to China’s financial services markets.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Friday that the two sides had talked almost daily, but there were currently no plans for face-to-face talks or a signing ceremony between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

With less than a week to go before the deadline amid “intense” negotiations, Kudlow said Trump would make the final decision on the tariffs, which would hit Chinese-made cellphones, laptop computers, toys and clothing.

“We’ll have to see, but right now we’re moving along,” Trump said last week. “On Dec. 15 , something could happen, but we are not discussing that yet. We are having very good discussions with China, however.”


Frank Kane’s Davos diary: Swiss efficiency lapses, but so far Davos lives up to the cuckoo-clock image

Updated 22 January 2020

Frank Kane’s Davos diary: Swiss efficiency lapses, but so far Davos lives up to the cuckoo-clock image

Davos comes and Davos goes, but over the last five decades, the one thing you can rely on is Swiss efficiency, right? The trains run on time, the cuckoo clocks chime on the hour, and the snow is swept from the pathways within minutes of the first fake falling. That is the common (even cliched) view of the Alpine nation and its showpiece event, the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos.

But — and whisper it very gently beneath your breath — maybe the legendary standards of Swiss efficiency are slipping as the WEF celebrates its 50th birthday. Evidence of a lapse from the highest levels of attainment came at Zurich Airport, when the luggage belt seized up inexplicably, and a full 10 minutes elapsedbefore a maintenance man came to attend to it. Tut tut.

Further signs of falling standards were on display at the railway station. The booking desks were besieged, as usual, by WEF delegates keen to complete the final leg of their journey up the Magic Mountain — a two-hour rail journey involving two stops at increasingly higher altitudes.

But only two of the 10 grills were manned, and the line grew longer and more grumpy with each passing minute. The mood was not helped when some trains were canceled and an extra hour was added to the journey. There was much muttering and dark looks shot when the train finally pulled into Klosters.

But thankfully, once you got to the heart of WEF-land, normal service was resumed. There had been a reasonable fall of snow that morning, which gave the place its usual fairytale appearance, but no traffic snarl ups as in previous years, when massive snowfall had caused the place to grind to a halt.

The shuttle buses that are the arterial life-channels of Davos — for those whose budgets do not extend to the black Mercedes limo — were running with their usual Swiss punctuality: Every 10 minutes or so, or even more frequently during peak rush hours.

These, in my experience over the past few years, are becoming frequently extended. Having battled through the registration process and attended one event at the nearby Seehof hotel, I imagined it would be easy to catch a ride on a virtually empty shuttle back to Klosters at around 9.30 p.m. But even at that hour, there was a long queue of unhappy souls waiting to make the same 20-minute trip to the other side of the mountain and their warm, welcoming hotel rooms.

It was the same thing on the opening morning of the annual meeting. I left my hotel — the homely and comfortable Cresta in Klosters — at 7 a.m. in the dark, and at minus 5 degrees Celsius. Again, there was a crowd of people standing huddled at the shuttle stop, shivering and stamping their feet.

The WEF shuttle service was up to the job, however, and I got into the Congress Hall with little trouble. The airport-style screening process — maybe a little more thorough than usual in view of the impending arrival of US President Donald Trump — passed smoothly. One request though: Please WEF, install some hot-air machines in the security hall. The body shock when you remove outer clothing to pass through the metal detectors was wicked.

Then down to business, which for a journalist at Davos means finding somewhere in the congress complex where you can rest a laptop while also providing a good people-watching vantage point. Over the years, I have learned that the Central Lounge — strategically located between the main plenary meeting halls and the (private) members lounge and bilateral rooms — is the perfect spot. Now, who will come my way in Davos 2020?