US ex­pects China’s top trade ne­go­tia­tor to visit this month

Gulf Times Business - - FRONT PAGE -

US of­fi­cials ex­pect China’s top trade ne­go­tia­tor may visit Wash­ing­ton this month, sig­nalling that higher-level dis­cus­sions are likely to fol­low this week’s talks with mi­dlevel of­fi­cials in Bei­jing as the world’s two largest economies try to ham­mer out a deal to end a tit­for-tat tar­iff war.

“The cur­rent in­tent is that the Vice-Pre­mier Liu He will most likely come and visit us later in the month and I would ex­pect the govern­ment shut­down would have no im­pact,” US Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin told re­porters on Thurs­day in Wash­ing­ton. “We will con­tinue with those meet­ings just as we sent a del­e­ga­tion to China.”

The US govern­ment is in the 20th day of a par­tial shut­down with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, a Repub­li­can, and con­gres­sional Democrats feud­ing over fund­ing and Trump’s desire for a wall on the US-Mex­ico bor­der.

Peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the talks in Bei­jing said on Thurs­day that hopes were mount­ing that Liu would con­tinue talks with US Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Robert Lighthizer and Mnuchin.

Talks at that level are viewed as im­por­tant for mak­ing the key de­ci­sions to ease a fes­ter­ing trade war, which has dis­rupted trade flows for hun­dreds of bil­lions of dol­lars worth of goods and roiled global mar­kets.

Trump has de­manded bet­ter terms of trade with China, with the United States press­ing Bei­jing to ad­dress is­sues that would re­quire struc­tural change such as intellectual prop­erty theft, forced tech­nol­ogy trans­fers and other non-tar­iff bar­ri­ers.

Trump on Thurs­day said the United States was hav­ing “tremen­dous suc­cess” in its trade ne­go­ti­a­tions with China.

A spokes­woman for Lighthizer’s of­fice de­clined to com­ment.

More than half­way through a 90-day truce in the US-China trade war agreed on De­cem­ber 1 when Trump and Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping met at the G20 sum­mit in Ar­gentina, there have been few de­tails pro­vided of any progress made.

Trump has vowed to in­crease tar­iffs on $200bn worth of Chi­nese im­ports on March 2 if China fails to take steps to pro­tect US in­tel­lec- tual prop­erty, end poli­cies that force Amer­i­can com­pa­nies to turn over tech­nol­ogy to a Chi­nese part­ner, al­low more mar­ket ac­cess for US busi­nesses and re­duce other non-tar­iff bar­ri­ers to Amer­i­can prod­ucts.

The time­line is seen as am­bi­tious, but the re­sump­tion of face-to-face ne­go­ti­a­tions has bol­stered hopes of a deal.

“We have the two sides back at the ta­ble. That’s en­cour­ag­ing,” said My­ron Bril­liant, the US Cham­ber of Com­merce’s head of in­ter­na­tional af­fairs, while speak­ing to re­porters at an event on Thurs­day.

China’s com­merce min­istry said on Thurs­day that ad­di­tional con­sul­ta­tions with the United States were be­ing ar­ranged after the Bei­jing talks ad­dressed struc­tural is­sues and helped es­tab­lish a foun­da­tion to re­solve US and Chi­nese con­cerns.

Com­merce min­istry spokesman Gao Feng told re­porters the two sides were “se­ri­ous” and “hon­est.”

Asked about China’s stance on is­sues such as forced tech­nol­ogy trans­fers, intellectual prop­erty rights, non-tar­iff bar­ri­ers and cy­ber at­tacks, and whether China was con­fi­dent it could reach agree­ment with the United States, Gao said these is­sues were “an im­por­tant part” of the Bei­jing talks.

“There has been progress in these ar­eas,” he said with­out elab­o­rat­ing.

China has re­peat­edly played down com­plaints about intellectual prop­erty abuses, and has re­jected ac­cu­sa­tions that for­eign com­pa­nies face forced tech­nol­ogy trans­fers.

Dis­cus­sions on those is­sues were an ex­ten­sive part of the talks, said peo­ple in Wash­ing­ton fa­mil­iar with the dis­cus­sions.

Chi­nese of­fi­cials lis­tened “po­litely” to US griev­ances, they said, but re­sponded by say­ing that the Amer­i­cans had some is­sues wrong and mis­un­der­stood oth­ers, but that some other is­sues could be ad­dressed.

“It was a cor­dial stand­off,” said one per­son fa­mil­iar with the dis­cus­sions.

China has said it will not give ground on is­sues that it per­ceives as core.

On Wed­nes­day, the US Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive’s of­fice said of­fi­cials from the two sides dis­cussed “ways to achieve fair­ness, re­ciproc­ity and bal­ance in trade re­la­tions,” and fo­cused on China’s pledge to buy a sub­stan­tial amount of agricul- tu­ral, en­ergy, man­u­fac­tured, and other prod­ucts and ser­vices from the United States.”

The US trade agency said the talks also fo­cused on ways to en­sure en­force­ment and ver­i­fi­ca­tion of Chi­nese fol­low-through on any com­mit­ments it makes to the United States.

US and Chi­nese of­fi­cials made more progress on straight­for­ward is­sues such as work­ing out the de­tails of Chi­nese pledges to buy a “sub­stan­tial amount” of US agri­cul­tural, en­ergy and man­u­fac­tured goods and ser­vices, sources said.

Since the Trump-Xi meet­ing, China has re­sumed pur­chases of US soy­beans.

Buy­ing had slumped after China im­posed a 25% im­port duty on US ship­ments of the oilseed on July 6 in re­sponse to US tar­iffs.

China has also cut tar­iffs on US cars, di­alled back on an in­dus­trial de­vel­op­ment plan known as “Made in China 2025” and told its state re­fin­ers to buy more US oil.

Ear­lier this week, China ap­proved five ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied crops for im­port, the first in about 18 months, which could boost its over­seas grains pur­chases and ease US pres­sure to open its mar­kets to more farm goods.

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