190905 yangshan
The Yangshan Port in Shanghai. Beijing has agreed to narrow its politically sensitive trade surplus with the US but is reluctant to give up its development strategies. Image Credit: New York Times

BEIJING

US and Chinese envoys will meet in early October for more talks aimed at ending a tariff war that threatens global economic growth.

Stock markets rose on Thursday’s announcement but there has been no sign of progress since Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping agreed in June to resume deadlocked negotiations about trade and technology.

Earlier, investors were rattled by a report officials were struggling to agree on a schedule for talks originally planned for this month.

The agreement on a date came in a phone call conducted by the chief Chinese envoy, Vice Premier Liu He, with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the Chinese Commerce Ministry said in a statement.

Officials will “conduct conscientious consultations” in mid-September to prepare, the ministry said. It gave no details but said the two sides want to create “favourable conditions.”

China’s main stock market index was up 1.6 per cent at midday following the announcement. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 gained 2.3 per cent and South Korea’s main index rose 1 per cent.

Beijing is balking at US pressure to roll back plans for government-led creation of global competitors in robotics and other industries.

The US, Europe, Japan and other trading partners say those plans violate China’s market-opening commitments and are based on stealing or pressuring companies to hand over technology.

The US and China have raised tariffs on billions of dollars of each other’s imports, disrupting trade in goods from soybeans to medical equipment and battering traders on both sides.

$300b

Value of Chinese shipments facing 15% levies from US

In their latest escalation, Washington imposed 15 per cent tariffs on $300 billion of Chinese imports on Sunday, extending penalties to almost everything the United States buys from China. Beijing responded by imposing duties of 10 per cent and 5 per cent on a range of American imports.

US tariffs of 25 per cent imposed previously on $250 billion of Chinese goods are due to rise to 30 per cent on Oct. 1.

China has imposed or announced penalties on a total of about $120 billion of US imports, economists estimate. Some have been hit with increases more than once, while about $50 billion of US goods is unaffected, possibly to avoid disrupting Chinese industries.

$120b

Value of US imports that are facing tariffs from China

Beijing also has retaliated by cancelling purchases of soybeans, the biggest single US export to China.

Beijing has agreed to narrow its politically sensitive trade surplus with the US but is reluctant to give up development strategies it sees as a path to prosperity and global influence.

Talks broke down in May over how to enforce any agreement.

China insists Trump’s punitive tariffs must be lifted once a deal takes effect. Washington says at least some must stay to make sure Beijing carries out any promises.

The last round of talks in July in Shanghai ended with no indication of progress. Neither government has given any indication it is ready to break the deadlock by offering concessions.

Some analysts suggest Beijing is holding out in hopes Trump will feel pressure to make a more favourable deal as his campaign for the 2020 presidential election picks up. Trump has warned that if he is re-elected, China will face a tougher US negotiating stance.