A truck drives past other shipping containers sitting stacked at a port in China (Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

China's Willing to Boost Imports If U.S. Meets Half-Way on Trade

(Bloomberg) -- China reiterated that it is willing to expand imports from the U.S. if the world’s two largest economies “meet half-way” in trade negotiations.

The two countries had “deep and detailed” talks on agricultural and energy products last week, while those details are subject to confirmation, Gao Feng, a spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce, said at a regular briefing Thursday in Beijing. Gao said that China doesn’t want to escalate trade tensions with the U.S., and that boosting imports is an established strategy.

The comments come after reports that China has offered to boost purchases of U.S. goods by about $25 billion this year ahead of a mid-June deadline for imposing tariffs on Chinese imports. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was in Beijing earlier this month for the third round of high-level negotiations, which focused on China agreeing to buy more U.S. energy and farming produce. Gao didn’t comment on any specific Chinese offer during the talks.

China said after that round that all commitments made so far will be withdrawn if President Donald Trump carries out his threat to impose tariffs.

The Trump administration has made reducing the deficit in goods trade with China and other nations one of its most important policy goals. While it has imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from across the world, riling up allies in Europe, Asia and Canada, it has yet to enact any of the China-specific levies it has threatened.

The proposed additional 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese imports, if they materialize after June 15 as scheduled, would be Trump’s first actual trade actions specifically targeted at the world’s biggest trading nation.

The Mofcom comments can be "interpreted as an effort" to avert American tariffs due in about 8 days, according to Dariusz Kowalczyk, senior emerging-market strategist at Credit Agricole SA in Hong Kong. "We believe a breakthrough would be needed for that and the two sides will probably reach one in coming days, but time is ticking."

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