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Two more rounds of talks set for May amid hope the US-China trade war is ending

Negotiators from China and the United States will hold two more rounds of trade talks by early May as the countries’ attempts to end their months-old trade battle intensify, US media reported on Thursday.

Chinese officials were putting the finishing touches on the language they intend to use in their latest offers, diplomatic observers told the South China Morning Post.

But US businesspeople watching the talks cautioned against excessive optimism, saying “systemic issues” remain to be fixed.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin plan to travel to Beijing the week of April 29, according to Bloomberg.The next week, Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He will go to Washington for talks, which officials hope will lead to the announcement a deal and the details of a signing summit, probably for late May, according to the report.

Plans for more talks follow Mnuchin’s statement last week that the parties had agreed to set up enforcement offices in each other’s country to monitor the trade deal’s implementation, resolving a major sticking point in the talks.

When US President Donald Trump received Liu in the White House on April 4, he said it would take about four weeks to reach a framework for the agreement and another two weeks to set details.

It is not known whether the negotiators will resolve all the outstanding issues within Trump’s time frame, but the diplomatic observers said they expected a deal to be reached soon.

“I think they are entering the final stage, and the discussion will rather focus on the wording of the deal document than principal issues,” said Wang Huiyao, president of the Centre for China and Globalisation, a Chinese non-governmental think tank based in Beijing.

China and the US have been locked in a tit-for-tat tariff battle since July 6.

The sides have engaged in several rounds of talks since negotiating teams led by Chinese President Xi Jinping and Trump called a truce in their tariff war at the conclusion of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina on December 1.

A major bone of contention remains America’s insistence that Beijing cut the subsidies it hands out to Chinese industries. For its part, Beijing wants the US to lift all tariffs it imposed on billions of dollars of Chinese imports.Tim Stratford, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, said that despite a growing belief that an end to the trade war might be near, solutions to deeper issues still needed to be worked out.

“I don’t think it would be easy for China to agree to a one-way enforcement mechanism where the US can enforce but China cannot,” he said. “I think that’s very hard for China to agree to.

“But it’s also true that if it’s two-way, then if it’s abused one way or another, the agreement will fall apart. So this is a very delicate situation.”

US companies could feel “pleased and hopeful” about China’s recent promise to buy more American goods to close the US-China trade deficit, Stratford said.

“But I think more broadly, buying commitments are not really a traditional part of trade policy negotiations.”

On Wednesday, a chamber white paper said trust between China and the US had plummeted to the extent that US businesses in China could no longer be regarded as a “positive anchor” in the countries’ trade relations.

That change in sentiment came from years of broken Chinese promises to open up the Chinese market to foreign companies, according to the document.

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