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A pause in US-China trade war would be a ‘big relief’ to markets, says economist

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U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer (C) gestures as he chats with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He (R) as U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (L) looks on after posing for a “family photo” at the Xijiao Conference Centre in Shanghai on July 31, 2019.

Ng Han Guan | AFP | Getty Images

With many investors worried about further economic damages from the U.S.China trade war, even a “pause” in that bilateral fight would be a “big relief” to markets, according to an economist.

“Even if we just get a pause, I think that will be very good. I think it will be a big relief for markets, so I think we will get a risk rally,” Robin Brooks, managing director and chief economist at the Institute of International Finance, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Friday.

Stocks in the U.S. were taken on wild ride Thursday following several conflicting headlines related to U.S.-China trade talks this week. Officials from both countries met in Washington on Thursday to discuss trade, which U.S. President Donald Trump said were “going really well.”

Trump is set to meet with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He on Friday.

Many analysts have low expectations for what the two sides could achieve in this week’s talks. Some said the U.S. and China could reach a limited deal for the time being, while others predicted that the next rounds of tariff increases scheduled for Oct. 15 and Dec. 15 would be postponed.

Any US-China deal could ‘fall apart’

David Dollar, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, warned that any deal reached by the two countries may not last. He noted there had been instances in the past when the U.S. and China appeared to have come close to reaching an agreement, only to have the tariff fight escalated all over again.

“I worry that investors look at this, they’ll be relieved tomorrow if there’s a deal but then they’re going to start asking themselves: ‘Is this really stable? Do we expect this to last for a long time? Could this perhaps fall apart in a few months?'” Dollar told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Friday.

“It’s reasonable to worry that this might all fall apart,” he added.

That’s especially so when issues such as alleged human rights abuses in China and the Hong Kong protests have complicated negotiations between Washington and Beijing, said Dollar.

This week alone, the Trump administration blacklisted 28 Chinese entities due to allegations of surveillance and detention of minority groups in China. Washington also placed visa restrictions on Chinese officials it “believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the detention and abuse of” Muslim minorities in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region.

The U.S.-China trade war has dragged on for more than a year, with Washington slapping elevated tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese goods and Beijing retaliating with levies of its own. That has dampened business sentiment and sparked fears of a global economic slowdown.

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