The latest round of trade talks in Beijing have been wrapped up with the Trump administration noting that China has agreed to buy more US agricultural goods, energy and manufactured items.

The two counties concluded three days of talks yesterday with a cautious sense of optimism that they might be able to reach a deal that ends their trade war. China and the US have the world’s two biggest economies.

In a statement, the office of US Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer said the two sides considered ways to “achieve fairness, reciprocity, and balance in trade relations”. Officials discussed the need for any deal to include “ongoing verification and effective enforcement”. The USTR statement didn’t say whether progress had been achieved on its main concerns.

China is believed to be preparing a separate statement on the talks.

Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping have given officials until March 1 to reach an accord on “structural changes” to China’s economy on issues such as the forced transfer of American technology, intellectual property rights, and non-tariff barriers.

People familiar with the discussions said positions were closer on areas such as energy and agriculture but further apart on the harder issues.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the one-day extension in showed both sides are serious about the negotiations. There are still disagreements on structural issues which need to be addressed when more senior negotiators meet, later on, said Chinese officials involved in the discussions who asked not to be identified.

Mr Lighthizer is expected to meet Vice Premier Liu He, Xi’s top economic aide who is leading negotiations for China later this month, a person familiar with the situation said last week. Liu made a brief appearance in Beijing on Monday, boosting optimism that China was serious about making progress on a deal.

The two sides last met on December 1, the mid-level talks being the first face-to-face meeting since then. China made a number of compromises to US demands including temporarily cutting punitive tariffs on US-made cars, resuming soybean purchases, promising to open up its markets for more foreign investment, and drafting a law to prevent forced transfers prior to the meeting. According to the Chinese, the negotiations initially scheduled for two days were extended.

Mr Trump tweeted “Talks with China are going very well!” late on Tuesday in Beijing. Sources claim that the US president is increasingly eager to strike a deal soon in an effort to perk up financial markets that have slumped on concerns over the trade war.

Stocks rose worldwide after the talks were concluded and the US and China appeared much closer to an agreement, with all major US equities benchmarks rising.