Dhaka, Bangladesh
China upbeat on US trade talks

China upbeat on US trade talks

BEIJING, Feb 11: China struck an upbeat note on Monday as trade talks resumed with the United States, but also expressed anger at a US Navy mission through the disputed South China Sea, casting a shadow over the prospect for improved Beijing-Washington ties, reports Reuters. The United States is expected to keep pressing China on longstanding demands that it reform how it treats American companies’ intellectual property in order to seal a trade deal that could prevent tariffs from rising on Chinese imports. The latest talks will begin with working level discussions from Monday-Wednesday before high-level discussions at the end of the week. Negotiations concluded in Washington last month without a deal and with the top U.S. negotiator declaring that a lot more work needed to be done. Lower-level officials will kick off the meetings on Monday, led on the American side by Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish. Higher principal-level talks will take place Thursday and Friday with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “We, of course, hope, and the people of the world want to see, a good result,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters at a regular news briefing in Beijing. The two sides are trying to hammer out a deal ahead of the March 1 deadline when U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports are scheduled to increase to 25 percent from 10 percent. Lighthizer, named by U.S. President Donald Trump to spearhead the process after agreeing a 90-day truce in the trade war with Beijing, has been a strong proponent of pushing China to end what the United States views as unfair trade practices, including stealing intellectual property and forcing U.S. companies to share their technology with Chinese firms. China has denied it engages in such practices. Trump said last week he did not plan to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping before that deadline, dampening hopes that a trade pact could be reached quickly. Escalating tensions between the United States and China have cost both countries billions of dollars and disrupted global trade and business flows, roiling financial markets. The same day the latest talks began, two U.S. warships sailed near islands claimed by China in the disputed South China Sea, a U.S. official told Reuters. Hua said the ships entered the waters without China’s permission, and that Beijing expressed firm opposition and dissatisfaction at the move. China’s navy had tracked the vessels and warned them to leave, Hua said, accusing Washington of provocation and of harming China’s sovereignty. Asked if the ships’ passage would impact trade talks, Hua said that “a series of U.S. tricks” showed what Washington was thinking. But Hua added that China believed resolving trade frictions through dialogue was in the interests of both countries’ people, and of global economic growth. China claims a large part of the South China Sea, and has built artificial islands and air bases there, prompting concern around the region and in Washington. Meanwhile, US negotiators were in Beijing Monday for a new round of high-stakes trade talks, hoping to reach a deal before the March 1 deadline set by Donald Trump as the IMF warned of a possible global economic “storm”. Preliminary discussions had been expected to start on Monday, according to the White House, before US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin step in for the main event on Thursday and Friday. In December, Washington suspended for three months its plan to increase tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports — to 25 percent from the current 10 percent — to allow time for negotiators to work out a trade spat that has triggered fears of a global economic slowdown. Deputy trade representative Jeffrey Gerrish was due to lead the US delegation in preparatory meetings to begin on Monday, the White House had said. The talks will include officials from the agriculture, energy and commerce departments. Gerrish left his hotel in central Beijing on Monday morning without talking to the media. Neither side offered any confirmation that talks actually started. Mnuchin and Lighthizer will be joined by David Malpass, Trump’s nominee for president of the World Bank who has worked to limit the bank’s assistance to Beijing. The Chinese delegation will be led by Vice Premier Liu He, who will be joined by central bank governor Yi Gang. Liu, China’s chief trade negotiator, met last month with Trump, who announced that a final resolution of the trade dispute would depend on a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping “in the near future” to iron out the “more difficult points” fuelling the spat. While the two sides said major progress was made after talks last month in Washington, more recent comments have jarred financial markets, amplifying concerns about how the dispute will affect global growth. Trump said last week that he did not expect to meet his Chinese counterpart before the trade truce expires on March 1, and top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said that while Trump was “optimistic” about a deal, a “sizable distance” still separated the two sides. Washington is demanding far-reaching changes from China to address commercial practices that it says are deeply unfair, including theft of American intellectual property and myriad barriers that US and other foreign companies face in the Chinese domestic market. China has offered to boost its purchases of US goods during the truce, but is likely to resist calls for structural changes to its industrial policy including slashing government subsidies, said Louis Kuijs of Oxford Economics. “The US side will not fully remove the spectre of tariff hikes any time soon,” Kuijs said, given that there is “broad support in the US for a hard stance on China”. The two sides have already slapped tariffs on more than $360 billion in two-way trade, which has weighed on the two countries’ manufacturing sectors and sent jitters through global markets. The International Monetary Fund warned on Sunday of a possible economic “storm” as growth forecasts dip. It cited the trade row as one of four “clouds” over the global economy, along with financial tightening, Brexit uncertainty, and China’s slowdown. “We have no idea how it (the trade dispute) is going to pan out and what we know is that it is already beginning to have an effect on trade, on confidence and on markets,” IMF managing director Christine Lagarde told the World Government Summit in Dubai. Last month, the IMF lowered its global economic growth forecast for this year from 3.7 percent to 3.5 percent.

Share |