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Asian Markets Close Higher Reflecting Optimism Ahead Of U.S.-China Talks

Feb 11, 2019
Originally published on February 11, 2019 10:57 am

As high-level and high-stakes U.S.-China trade talks get underway in Beijing this week, global markets are responding positively, with Asian stocks closing mostly higher on Monday.

The Shanghai Composite Index rose 1.36 percent to close at 2,653. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.6 percent to close at 28,123. And Taiwan's TSEC 50 Index grew 0.72 percent to 10,004. Australia's ASX lost 0.12 percent to close at 6,128.

European markets were rallying early in the day, with France's CAC 40 up more than 1 percent around midmorning.

"Markets anticipate a trade deal is coming and the truce will be extended," David Kotok, chairman and chief investment officer of Cumberland Advisors, told NPR in an email. "All sides want a settlement so we believe it will be achieved."

With the trade war on pause, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are part of a U.S. delegation working to climb down from an escalating trade war put in motion by the Trump administration. Mnuchin and Lighthizer are set to meet their Beijing counterparts on Thursday with the goal of hashing out a deal ahead of a March 1 deadline when U.S. tariffs against China are set to increase to 25 percent from 10 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.

On Monday, lower-level negotiations began in Beijing with Deputy Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish leading the U.S. side.

President Trump and President Xi Jinping agreed to a truce in December while meeting at the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Argentina. Before the leaders decided on a trade detente, the tariff hike had been set to go into effect in January.

Late last month, the White House reiterated that March 1 marks a hard deadline, and unless its demands are met, the new tariffs will go into effect. It said in a statement that "[w]hile progress has been made, much work remains to be done."

In an interview with NPR's Mary Louise Kelly, Lighthizer synthesized the U.S. goals for the talks.

"We need an open market or a more open market, more access by American companies," he said. "We need protection of intellectual property. We need to stop cybertheft."

NPR's Shanghai Correspondent Rob Schmitz has reported that leveling the playing field for U.S. companies in China will be exceedingly difficult.

"To do that properly would require significant changes in how China manages its economy, changes that would put the Chinese government and its state-owned enterprises in a vulnerable position," Schmitz said. The price of failed talks and the resumption of tariffs, he added, would include consumers on both sides losing out, with the price of imported goods going up.

U.S.-China negotiations have been ongoing at varying levels for months.

"I'm never confident," Lighthizer told Kelly. China has "had a system that's worked very well for them for a long time. ... But the reality is this is a major, major issue, and it's one that has to be sorted out."

Kotok told NPR that he anticipates markets this week will continue to reflect optimism for a deal: "Gradual removal of existing tariffs and more openness with less protectionism."

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