United States and China launch trade talks amid differences over economic reforms

Anna Jefferson
February 1, 2019

At the head of a 30-person delegation from Beijing, Chinese Vice Premier Liu He greeted his counterpart, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, against the backdrop of Washington's prosecution of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, which has outraged Beijing and infused the negotiations with uncertainty. If confirmed that would be right around the time Trump is slated to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for nuclear talks.

Top US and Chinese trade officials returned to the bargaining table Wednesday, working to avoid a sharp escalation in the trade war between the world's two largest economies.

"Meetings are going well with good intent and spirit on both sides", Trump said on Twitter.

The talks began two days after the United States charged Chinese telecommunications company Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, with conspiring to violate US sanctions on Iran by doing business through a subsidiary it tried to hide.

The Trump administration says China steals trade secrets and forces foreign companies to hand over technology as the price of doing business in the country.

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"China's representatives and I are trying to do a complete deal, leaving NOTHING unresolved on the table", he tweeted.

In four early-morning tweets, the president said he plans to meet with Xi in the "near future to discuss and agree on some of the long standing and more hard points".

A deadline looms. On March 2, the Trump administration is scheduled to escalate its tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports from 10 per cent to 25 per cent.

People familiar with the talks said manufactured goods, a key priority for the Trump administration, were among the largest components of Chinese purchase pledges aimed at significantly reducing the USA trade deficit with China. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office on Monday said it expected that Trump's tariffs on steel, aluminum, and Chinese goods would cut the US's real gross domestic product by at least 0.1 per cent on average through 2029.

Donald Trump was scheduled to meet with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He at the White House as talks conclude on Thursday.

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In a sign the sides are hopeful of making progress, the Harvard-trained Liu is due to meet Trump during this week's talks.

High-ranking officials from both countries began talks on Wednesday in Washington, DC, in an effort to defuse an ongoing trade war.

Chinese officials are resistant to the wholesale changes sought by the USA and the charges against Huawei - one of China's biggest and most successful technology firms - have added to the political tensions. Both sides agreed to start talks on reforms with respect to forced technology transfer, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers, cyber intrusions and cyber theft, and opening the Chinese market to US services and agriculture. China has retaliated with tariffs of its own, but has suspended some and is allowing some purchases of USA soybeans during the talks.

"It can't be settled below that level", William Reinsch, a former Commerce Department official, said of the U.S.

Mr. Trump has threatened to tax every good imported from China unless an agreement can be reached, amounting to an additional more than $250 billion.

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