BEIJING (AP) — Buy more U.S. exports? Done. Tinker with technology tactics that irk Washington and other trading partners? Maybe. But scrap those plans, seen by Beijing as a path to prosperity and influence? Probably never.
The agreement by President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on a cease fire on tariffs postpones the threat of more disruption for China's exporters and their Asian suppliers. Some economists said Xi might be ready to negotiate in earnest.
Still, Beijing gave no sign of a changed stance on technology ambitions Washington said violate Chinese market-opening obligations and might threaten U.S. industrial leadership.
Trump's complaints strike at the heart of the ruling Communist Party's state-led economic model and plans to restore China to its rightful place as a political and culture leader by creating global champions in robotics and other fields.
"It's impossible for China to cancel its industry policies or major industry and technology development plans," said economist Cui Fan of the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.
At his weekend meeting with Xi in Argentina, Trump agreed to postpone planned U.S. tariff hikes on Chinese imports by 90 days while the two sides negotiate. The 90-day clock starts Jan. 1. Xi revived promises to narrow China's multibillion-dollar trade surplus with the United States by purchasing more American exports.
The outcome was "as good as we could have expected," the chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, William Zarit, said in a statement.
Also late Sunday, Trump said on Twitter that Beijing agreed to cut import duties on U.S. autos. There was no Chinese confirmation of the move, which would have little impact on trade because most American vehicles sold in China are made here.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters at the White House Monday that there was an "an immediate focus on reducing auto tariffs," though he did not provide details or timing. Asked if there was a specific agreement to remove the tariffs, he said: "Yes, there was."
Yet Larry Kudlow, the top White House economic adviser, later Monday said, "We don't yet have a specific agreement on that," referring to the auto tariffs.
"But I will just tell you as an involved participant we expect those tariffs to go to zero," Kudlow added in a conference call with reporters.