US, China reaching better understanding on trade: ex-Beijing official

on Mar7
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The Chinese port of Nantong in Jiangsu Province, China.

Xu Congjun | Visual China Group | Getty Images

The Chinese port of Nantong in Jiangsu Province, China.

The U.S. and China are reaching greater consensus on trade issues, a former official at the Chinese commerce ministry told CNBC on Thursday.

“Within the last nine months, we had three rounds of consultations; I think we have more and more consensus about it,” said Jin Xu, a former senior commerce ministry official. Jin was also previously a diplomat to the U.S., U.K. and Turkey.

According to sources who spoke to CNBC, Washington and Beijing are approaching the finish line on trade negotiations that could end later this month.

“Both countries agree to have more and more mutual understanding and also want to build much better relations for business people for the two countries,” Jin told CNBC’s Martin Soong in Beijing.

“If we have more and more consensus, the world will benefit from it,” said Jin, emphasizing that China is the world’s largest developing country and the U.S. is the world’s largest developed country.

Jin, who is now the chairman of China International Trade Association, said he was hopeful for a positive outcome from the talks and that China will make policy adjustments accordingly.

China is currently in the midst of a two-week long annual parliamentary meeting, the National People’s Congress, which kicked off on Tuesday and ends next Friday (Mar. 5-15).

At the opening of that meeting this week, Premier Li Keqiang said the Chinese economy will likely slow this year, and revealed that the official economic growth target for 2019 will be 6.0 to 6.5 percent. That compares to an expansion of 6.6 percent in 2018 — its slowest growth since 1990.

Li also said the country’s months-long tariff war with the U.S. has hurt business activities — but he reiterated Beijing’s commitment to “safeguarding economic globalization” and pledged to promote China-U.S. trade negotiations while advancing negotiations on other trade agreements.

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