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Trump Sees ‘Strong Signals’ as China Swings Into Action on Trade

(Bloomberg) — U.S. President Donald Trump said China is sending “very strong signals” following weekend trade discussions in Argentina, as uncertainty remains over what commitments were made between the two nations.

“Not to sound naive or anything, but I believe President Xi meant every word of what he said at our long and hopefully historic meeting,” Trump said on Twitter Wednesday. “ALL subjects discussed!”

Beijing will start to quickly implement specific items where there’s consensus with the U.S. and will push forward on trade negotiations within the 90-day “timetable and road map,” the Ministry of Commerce said in a statement on Wednesday morning in China.

Hours later, Bloomberg News reported that officials have begun preparing to restart imports of U.S. soybeans and liquefied natural gas — the first sign confirming the claims of Trump and the White House that China had agreed to start buying some U.S. products “immediately.” Trump retweeted an edited excerpt of that article Wednesday.

In China, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said that country hopes to speed up talks and is devoted to finding a solution to settle issues.

Global markets cheered the weekend accord on Monday, only to reverse course Tuesday as doubts emerged over exactly what the world’s two largest economies had agreed on. While Asian and European equities dropped Wednesday in the wake of the biggest slide in stocks on Wall Street since the mid-October downdraft, U.S. futures advanced after the statement from China echoed Trump’s optimism over bilateral trade talks.

The Ministry of Commerce statement described the meeting with the U.S. as “very successful” and said China is “confident” of implementing the results agreed upon at the talks, but didn’t provide any further details on the outcome. It was the first official confirmation from China that there’s a 90-day window for the talks.

China and the U.S. announced a truce in their trade war after the meeting between Trump and Xi Jinping on Saturday, but that quickly descended into confusion, with both sides announcing different statements on what was agreed. There’s also been confusion just on the U.S. side, with the White House, Trump and his advisers making conflicting statements as to the details of a deal.

“One of the very exciting things to come out of my meeting with President Xi of China is his promise to me to criminalize the sale of deadly Fentanyl coming into the United States. It will now be considered a ‘controlled substance,”’ Trump said in another tweet Wednesday, subsequently adding that China would see “incredible” results if it imposed the death penalty on “distributors and pushers.”

The White House statement listed what it claimed China had promised to do. The most detailed explanation of what the Chinese say they agreed to came from Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Saturday in Argentina. He told reporters that China had said it was willing to “expand imports according to the needs of its domestic market and people, including importing marketable products from the US to gradually ease the trade imbalances,” adding that both sides had agreed to open their markets to each other.

Chinese officials have been told to take necessary steps for the soybeans and liquefied natural gas purchases, according to two officials with knowledge of the discussions. It wasn’t clear whether the preparations meant China would cut the retaliatory tariffs it imposed on those products, or when the purchases would happen.

Chinese purchases of the goods collapsed after Beijing imposed tariffs on them in retaliation for U.S. import taxes.

China also announced an array of punishments that could restrict companies’ access to borrowing and state-funding support over intellectual-property theft. It set out a total of 38 different punishments to be applied to IP violations, starting this month. The document, dated Nov. 21, was released Tuesday by the National Development and Reform Commission and signed by various government bodies, including the central bank and supreme court.

Trump, who on Tuesday described himself as “Tariff Man,” continues to ratchet up pressure on China, saying there will be a “REAL DEAL with China, or no deal at all.”

–With assistance from Dandan Li and Terrence Dopp.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Yinan Zhao in Beijing at yzhao300@bloomberg.net;Steven Yang in Beijing at kyang74@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Malcolm Scott at mscott23@bloomberg.net, James Mayger, Sharon Chen

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