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US-China trade talks extended amid some signs of progress

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President Donald Trump delivers a televised address to the nation from his desk in the Oval Office. Reuters

BEIJING (Reuters) – The United States and China will continue trade talks in Beijing for an unscheduled third day, US officials said on Tuesday amid signs of progress on issues including purchases of US farm and energy commodities and increased access to China’s markets.

People familiar with the talks said the world’s two largest economies were further apart on Chinese structural reforms that the Trump administration is demanding in order to stop alleged theft and forced transfer of US technology and on how to hold Beijing to its promises.

“Talks with China are going very well!” US President Donald Trump tweeted without elaborating, as talks wound down late on Tuesday evening in Beijing.

Steven Winberg, assistant secretary for Fossil Energy at the US Department of Energy, told reporters in Beijing that the talks, which began on Monday, had gone well.

“I confirm we’re continuing tomorrow, yes,” Mr Winberg said, declining to answer further questions.

This week’s meetings are the first face-to-face talks since US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed in December to a 90-day truce in a trade war that has roiled global financial markets.

Mr Trump is increasingly eager to reach an agreement to help lift the markets, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with internal White House deliberations. The S&P 500 Index has fallen about 8 percent since the truce began.

A spokeswoman for the US Trade Representative’s office, which is leading the US negotiating team, said talks would continue today and “a statement will likely follow then.”

If no deal is reached by March 2, Mr Trump has said he will proceed with raising tariffs to 25 percent from 10 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports at a time when China’s economy is slowing significantly.

In the meantime, companies in both countries are feeling pain from the effects of US tariffs and retaliation from China, which are starting to mount.

El Paso, Texas-based Helen of Troy Ltd, a maker of consumer products from OXO kitchen utensils to Braun shavers, cut its sales and gross margin outlooks on Tuesday laid some of the blame on US tariffs on Chinese goods, which make up 70 percent of the company’s cost of products sold.

Helen of Troy stock fell nearly 13 percent, the largest one-day drop in more than six years.

“Tariff increases began to impact our cost of goods sold during the third quarter,” Helen of Troy Chief Financial Officer Brian Grass told investors on a conference call that featured 27 mentions of the words “tariff” or “tariffs”. While the company is trying to offset tariffs through price increases, “that doesn’t mean we’ll be 100 percent successful.”

A week ago, Apple Inc rattled global markets by cutting its own sales outlook, blaming weak demand in China.

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