United States, China wrap up brief but 'constructive' trade talks

United States and China flags.
United States and China flags. Photo credit: iStock.

US and China negotiators have wrapped up a brief round of trade talks that both sides described as "constructive", including discussions over further Chinese purchases of American farm goods and an agreement to reconvene in September.

The first face-to-face talks since a ceasefire was agreed last month in the trade war between the world's two largest economies amounted to a working dinner on Tuesday at a Shanghai's hotel and a half-day meeting on Wednesday before US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin flew out.

"The meetings were constructive, and we expect negotiations on an enforceable trade deal to continue in Washington ... in early September," White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.

"Both sides, according to the consensus reached by the two leaders in Osaka, had a candid, highly effective, constructive and deep exchange on major trade and economic issues of mutual interest," China's Commerce Ministry said in a statement shortly after the US team left Shanghai.

It was not immediately clear what, if any, further agricultural products China agreed to buy from the US and when, an issue that had become a bone of contention after President Donald Trump said Beijing had not made good on promised purchases.

"The Chinese side confirmed their commitment to increase purchases of United States agricultural exports," the White House's Grisham said, offering no other details.

The Chinese statement said negotiators discussed more purchases of agricultural products from the US but did not say there was any agreement to buy more.

The talks began amid low expectations. Trump on Tuesday warned China against waiting out his first term to finalise any trade deal, saying if he wins re-election in the November 2020 US presidential contest, the outcome will be worse for China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Wednesday that she was not aware of the latest developments during the talks, but that it was clear it was the US that continued to "flip flop".

"I believe it doesn't make any sense for the US to exercise its campaign of maximum pressure at this time," Hua told a news briefing in response to a question about the tweets.

"It's pointless to tell others to take medication when you're the one who is sick," she said.

The US-China trade war has disrupted global supply chains and shaken financial markets as each side has slapped tariffs on billions of dollars of each other's goods.