September 26, 2019 / 8:04 PM / 24 days ago

China's top diplomat says Beijing willing to buy more U.S. products

NEW YORK (Reuters) - China’s top diplomat said on Thursday that China was willing to buy more U.S. products, and said trade talks would yield results if both sides “take more enthusiastic measures” to show goodwill and reduce “pessimistic language” in their trade dispute.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks while hosting a lunch with his counterparts of the permanent five veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council in New York, U.S., September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Yana Paskova

Wang Yi, China’s state councillor and foreign minister, said in response to questions from Reuters that the Trump administration had shown goodwill by waiving tariffs on many Chinese products.

“And so, (on) the Chinese side, we are willing to buy more products that are needed by the Chinese market,” Wang said on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly’s annual gathering of world leaders.

“We hope both sides can take more enthusiastic measures, reduce pessimistic language and actions. If everyone does this, talks will not only resume, but will proceed and yield results.”

The United States and China are preparing for another round of high-level trade talks in early October in Washington to try to find a way out of their nearly 15-month trade war.

CNBC reported on Thursday that the talks are scheduled for Oct. 10-11 in Washington, citing people familiar with the arrangements.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s office did not respond to queries about the dates, which are well after celebrations in Beijing for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on Oct. 1.

After two years of wrangling over U.S. demands that China make sweeping changes to protect and end the theft and forced transfer of U.S. intellectual property, the world’s two largest economies have heaped hundreds of billions of dollars in tariffs on each other’s products, roiling financial markets and disrupting global supply chains.

Trump on Wednesday said that a trade deal with China could come sooner than people think, and praised the Chinese purchases.

In his speech to the annual gathering of world leaders on Tuesday, Trump issued a stinging rebuke of China’s trade practices and state-led development model. He said that he would not accept a “bad deal.”.

Reuters’ report of Wang’s remarks caused U.S. stocks to pare losses and briefly turn positive on Thursday afternoon, capping selling driven by the impeachment inquiry opened by Democrats in Congress aimed at Trump, a Republican.

Chinese importers last week purchased about 600,000 tonnes of U.S. soybeans, or about 10 shiploads, a market analyst said. These could soon grow to 6 million tonnes after new tariff waivers were issued by China, said Li Qiang, chief analyst at Shanghai JC Intelligence Co Ltd.

China purchased about 32 million tonnes of American soybeans in 2017 before imposing retaliatory tariffs last year.

“I would say that mood music, if you will, is very positive going into the negotiations,” White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Fox Business Network.

When asked by Reuters if U.S. criticism of China’s policies on Muslim minority Uighurs in Xinjiang and Hong Kong political protests could affect trade talks, Wang said: “We hope trade talks can have a loose and good foreign environment.”

China has been widely condemned for setting up complexes in Xinjiang that it describes as “vocational training centers” to stamp out extremism and give Uighur people new skills. The United Nations says at least 1 million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims have been detained.

Trump called for an end to religious persecution on Monday at a U.S. event on the sidelines of the annual U.N. gathering, which featured a woman whose Uighur father, a scholar, has been imprisoned in China.

The United States led more than 30 countries in condemning what it called China’s “horrific campaign of repression” against Muslims in Xinjiang at a second event on Tuesday.

“The Chinese side does not accept any criticism that is not based on facts. Xinjiang has not had any violent incident in three years,” Wang said.

Months of sometimes violent demonstrations show no sign of letting up in Hong Kong where protesters are angry about what they see as creeping interference by Beijing in their city’s affairs despite a promise of autonomy.

“What is the basis for criticizing China? For Hong Kong, right now, it’s the violent actors that are violating the rule of law, that are disrupting public order,” Wang said.

But a senior U.S. State Department official said that a firm U.S. stance on human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang should not interfere with trade talks.

“We can walk and chew gum, we can maintain our principal-based position on these things while at the same time working out an agreement that addresses the interests of both sides” on trade, the official said.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Koh Gui Qing and David Lawder; additional reporting by David Brunnstrom and Andrea Shalal; Writing by David Lawder

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