Source: Global Times Published: 2019-1-23
Stock markets in Asia offered a muted reaction Thursday morning to the latest round of trade talks between Chinese and US officials in Beijing, where officials discussed a wide range of issues and agreed to keep close contact.
Equity markets in the Chinese mainland were muted at market opening on Thursday, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index up 0.02 percent, while the smaller Shenzhen Component Index opened 0.07 percent higher.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index opened 0.3 percent lower. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 Index also started the day off 0.8 percent. In South Korea, the KOSPI index opened 0.1 percent higher.
The Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) said in a statement on Thursday morning that the two sides had "broad, in-depth and detailed" exchanges on trade and structural issues of shared concern.
"[The talks] have strengthened mutual understanding and laid the foundation for addressing both sides' concerns," read the statement, adding that the two countries also agreed to keep close contact.
The MOFCOM's brief statement followed one from the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), which also listed several issues discussed at the trade talks, the first face-to-face meeting after the leaders of the two countries reached a truce in December.
The USTR said in its statement that the trade talks discussed ways to achieve fairness, reciprocity and balance in trade relations and the need for any agreement to have a verification process. The discussions also focused on China's pledge to buy "a substantial amount of agricultural, energy and other products from the US," it said.
"The delegation will now report back to receive guidance on the next steps," the USTR said, echoing China's statement on keeping close contact.
The MOFCOM's statement was more concise and did not mention specific topics compared to the USTR one, which listed specific topics, most of which have been the country's long-held grievances against China.
The discrepancies in the two statements stem from different considerations by the two countries, according to Dong Shaopeng, deputy managing editor of Securities Daily and an expert adviser for the China Securities Regulatory Commission.
"The US statement spelled out the specific issues to appease a domestic audience because the US is the one that launched the trade war," Dong said, "while the MOFCOM statement was brief because China has already repeatedly stated its position on issues that the US raised, such as expanded market access and protection of intellectual property rights."
Dong said it's crucial that China and the US reach a consensus in working together to tackle the divergence. If one side just receives and not gives, bilateral relations will not move forward.
Despite the differences, the statements from China and the US show that the two sides have the sincerity to resolve the trade disputes and are taking a pragmatic approach, Wang Jun, deputy director of the Department of Information at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, told the Global Times on Thursday.
"However, it is still too early to say whether the two countries could reach a deal in the near future as the two statements point to certain disagreements," he said.
Lifted by the optimism surrounding the China-US trade talks, global markets have rallied this week. On Wednesday, major indexes in the US and Europe also closed higher. In the US, the S&P 500 Index gained 0.41 percent at market close on Wednesday, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 0.39 percent higher. In Europe, the STOXX Europe 600 Index edged up 0.53 percent at market close on Wednesday.
Dong Shaopeng is a senior research fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at the Renmin University of China.