By Ginger Gibson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China has agreed to take measures to boost imports from the United States to reduce America's trade deficit, the two countries said on Saturday, although without mentioning the $200 billion target the White House had touted earlier.
Beijing and Washington agreed they would keep on talking about measures under which China would import more commodities from the United States to close a $335 billion annual trade gap between the two countries that has threatened to ignite a global trade war.
"There was a consensus on taking effective measures to substantially reduce the United States trade deficit in goods with China," the joint statement said.
"To meet the growing consumption needs of the Chinese people and the need for high-quality economic development, China will significantly increase purchases of United States goods and services."
The statement concluded joint talks on Thursday and Friday between the two countries, which included several U.S. cabinet secretaries and China's State Council Vice Premier Liu He. [nL2N1SP043]
U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on up to $150 billion on Chinese goods to combat what he says is Beijing's misappropriation of U.S. technology through joint venture requirements and other policies. Beijing has threatened equal retaliation, including tariffs on some of its largest U.S. imports, among them aircraft, soybeans and autos.
Trump made reducing the trade deficit between the United States and China a key campaign promise. Washington demanded that China reduce its trade surplus by $200 billion, a figure most economists say is impossible to achieve.
Such a reduction on a sustainable basis would require a massive change in the composition of commerce between the two countries.
The figure is larger than all of the United States' global annual agricultural and oil exports.
The statement says that China will "advance relevant amendments to its laws and regulations" to allow for more American imports, including changes to patent laws.
There are concerns among some legislators and trade experts that Trump could give priority to a reduction of the trade deficit over tackling what they say is China's abuse of intellectual property rights. Any deal under which China would import more goods could easily be reversed, economists say.
The statement made no mention of whether there would a relaxation of paralyzing restrictions on Chinese telecommunications equipment maker ZTE Corp <000063.SZ><0763.HK> imposed last month by the U.S. Commerce Department.
The action, related to violation of U.S. sanctions on Iran, banned American companies from selling semiconductors and other components to ZTE, causing the Shenzhen-based company to cease operations.
Earlier this week, Trump tweeted that he directed the Commerce Department to put ZTE back in business and said the company's situation was part of an overall trade deal with China.
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(Reporting by Ginger Gibson; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)