China has agreed to significantly increase its purchases of USA goods and services, the two countries said on Saturday, but made no mention of a $200 billion target the White House had touted earlier.
"That is we are going to reduce the trade deficit".
A deal that is primarily focused on the bilateral trade balance, however, would likely fail to address more fundamental structural issues such as China's weak protection of intellectual property rights or forced technology transfer.
"This round of talks is generally positive", said Li Yong, a senior fellow at the China Association of International Trade in Beijing, adding that the United States still may take a harder line on reviews of Chinese investments. "The Trump administration is trying to cast that as a win because the United States will be able to sell more to China, but it was nearly certain that the Chinese were going to buy more of that stuff anyway". Trump later ordered Lighthizer to seek up to an additional $100 billion in Chinese goods to tax.
"China will advance relevant amendments to its laws and regulations in this area, including the Patent Law".
The two trade delegations also agreed to encourage two-way investment and to strive to create a fair, level playing field for competition.
It said there was consensus between Washington and Beijing on the need to create "favorable conditions to increase trade" in manufactured goods and services. A major United States demand in such a grand bargain is for China to cut its trade surplus by $200 billion.
"Both sides want to reach some kind of deal. Its essence is win-win cooperation", it said.
"People were expecting, if not some overall agreement, then at least some kind of announcement saying the consultations would continue". Treasury Security Steven Mnuchin said Monday those issues "are part of our framework".
The $200 billion figure is equivalent to about 90 per cent of Boeing Co's annual aircraft production and is larger than all of the United States' global annual agricultural and oil exports.
That would provide some cover for Trump, who drew substantial support from farming states for his winning presidential campaign of 2016. According to CNBC.com economics reporter John W. Schoen, even if China agreed to cut the imbalance by $200 billion in the next two years it would be unable to deliver on its vow, as it merely "defies the laws of economics". The differences remain so wide that the Wall Street Journal reported the discussions ended up "with both sides arguing all night on Friday over what to say in a joint statement".
Last year, the US racked up a record $376 billion deficit with China in the trade of goods, largest by far with any nation.
As of late Thursday, US officials were still pressing China to agree to that size reduction.
"It wouldn't really hit the domestic movie business much whether we bring in more foreign movies or not", said Yu Jianhong, vice president of Beijing Film Academy. He told reporters on the South Lawn that while Mexico and Canada have been "very hard to deal with" during the negotiations, "I will tell you in the end we win, we will win and will win big".
Representatives for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for more details about the president's statement.
And the statement said little of the key dividing issue between Washington and Beijing: The methods China uses to try to overtake US technological supremacy - from cyber theft to its demands that American companies hand over some of their technology in exchange for access to the Chinese market.