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US, China to resume trade talks in Washington in October

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WASHINGTON: China and the United States will resume trade talks in Washington in early October, Beijing said on Thursday, allaying fears that new punitive tariffs would lead to a breakdown in the protracted negotiations.

The world’s two biggest economies have been embroiled in a tense year-long tariffs row, which escalated on September 1 when both sides swapped fresh levies on goods worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

The talks were supposed to have resumed this month but China’s commerce ministry said Vice Premier Liu He, Beijing’s pointman on trade, agreed to October in a phone call with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday.

Commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng said at a regular news briefing that there would be “comprehensive preparations” for the meetings by both sides and that the next round of negotiations would “strive to achieve substantive progress”.

The news will be seen as a sign of optimism in a trade war that has weighed on the global economy and stock markets while also shaking diplomatic relations between the two global powers.

Equities in Asia jumped on Thursday, with Shanghai adding 1% and Tokyo up more than 2%.

Top officials last met in Shanghai in July for discussions that were described as “constructive” but ended with no announcements.

US President Donald Trump soon afterwards said he would increase tariffs on more than half-a-trillion dollars’ worth of imports, prompting Beijing to respond with fresh tariffs on US goods worth $75 billion. Those were the levies that kicked in this month.

Tensions continued to mount over the summer, with Trump earlier this week accusing Chinese negotiators of holding out for a better deal in hopes he will be voted out in next year’s presidential elections.

He has also claimed China is being forced back to the negotiating table because of the country’s slowing economy.