March 6, 2019 / 5:12 PM / 18 days ago

U.S.-China trade talks progressing well via video conference: USDA official

FILE PHOTO: U.S. and Chinese flags are seen before Defense Secretary James Mattis welcomes Chinese Minister of National Defense Gen. Wei Fenghe to the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., November 9, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Trade negotiations between the United States and China are progressing well via video conference, a senior official at the U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Wednesday.

“The talks are going well,” Ted McKinney, Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agriculture Services told a press call. “Presently there’s a lot of discussions going on by digital video conference, also a very good and productive thing,” he said.

“Right now, I think there’s just a lot of work in getting words down ... a contract or agreement, and that’s the current status,” he added.

Washington and Beijing have been locked in intense negotiations to end the trade war between the world’s two largest economies. President Donald Trump, citing progress in talks, last week delayed a planned tariff increase to 25 percent from 10 percent on $200 billion of Chinese goods.

The United States has demanded that China make substantial changes to its laws and practices to protect U.S. intellectual property, end forced transfers of U.S. technology to Chinese firms, curb generous industrial subsidies and open the domestic market to U.S. companies.

In addition, Washington has sought increased Chinese purchases of U.S. goods, including farm and energy commodities and manufactured products, to reduce a U.S. trade deficit with China that it estimates at more than $417 billion for 2018.

People familiar with the talks told Reuters the two sides still had substantial work ahead to reach agreement on a way to ensure China follows through on any pledges. Talks could still collapse if a deal cannot be reached on enforcement of these “structural” issues.

McKinney said he did not know of any firm plans for a U.S. delegation to go back to China for further negotiations but added that such a trip would not come as a surprise.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; Editing by James Dalgleish

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