China and the United States closer to reaching an agreement

Abdelrahman Mohamed, World / Business Editor

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China and the U.S. recently came closer to reaching an agreement to put an end to their trade tensions. Top negotiators agreed to further talks next week in Washington.

In the latest round of negotiations, senior officials from both sides made some progress in sketching out the agreement; it would be in the form of a memorandum of understanding.

According to people briefed on the talks, it is a bare-bones pact that both sides said could serve as the framework for a deal that President Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping later finalize at a summit.

President Xi met with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin after talks on Friday and expressed that he believes that the discussions made are “important, interim progress.” He also encouraged the negotiators to “continue to work hard” in Washington.

The White House press secretary said both sides “have agreed that any commitments will be stated in a Memoranda of Understanding between the two countries.”

During this week’s talks, the U.S. delegation focused on structural issues, including forced technology transfer, intellectual property rights, cyber theft and currency.

The negotiators this week are trying to narrow the gap between what China is willing to offer and what the Trump administration will accept.

The memorandum is expected to cover issues related to Beijing’s offers to purchase more American goods and services.

Throughout the talks, sharp divisions remained on items such as how Beijing can address U.S. complaints that China pressures U.S. companies to share technology and that its policies favor state-owned companies at the expense of U.S. competitors. The memorandum likely will mention these topics as well.

Washington, D.C. and Beijing started their latest round of trade negotiations on Monday at China’s Commerce Ministry.

Both sides have hoped to reach a framework for a deal, with the goal of paving the way for a final agreement at a meeting between Trump and Xi. The date for a summit hasn’t been set.

Beijing has proposed that both leaders meet on China’s tropical island of Hainan this month. Trump and White House officials have said the U.S. leader hopes to hold the summit soon, but elsewhere.

The U.S. usually tries to alleviate tensions with a trading partner by offering to move toward significant trade deals without lifting tariffs.

During the latest round of talks, Chinese officials focused on ways to boost U.S. exports to China. Trump has campaigned on cutting the country’s trade deficit with China and praised Beijing’s agreement to more American soybean.

Beijing proposed to increase U.S. semiconductor sales to China to a total of $200 billion over six years, or a level five times that of current exports.