Tensions resurface at US-China trade talks

Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang (left) and US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin listen to an opening statement during a US and China comprehensive Economic Dialogue at the US Department of the Treasury in Washington, on July 19, 2017.
Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang (left) and US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin listen to an opening statement during a US and China comprehensive Economic Dialogue at the US Department of the Treasury in Washington, on July 19, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

An outward show of friendly intent masked an uneasy first session of the US-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue in Washington on Wednesday, as trade tensions surfaced despite recent deals on American beef, soya beans and natural gas, as well as Chinese poultry.

Earlier scheduled press conferences by both sides were cancelled without explanation, raising worries among analysts.

Shares of US steel companies rose on expectations that tariffs or quotas may be imposed on steel from China, which has been accused by the United States of dumping on the world market.

In a joint statement after the talks, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said: "China acknowledged our shared objective to reduce the trade deficit, which both sides will work cooperatively to achieve."

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Added the duo, who were co- chairs of the meeting with Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Yang: "The principles of balance, fairness and reciprocity on matters of trade will continue to guide the American position so we can give American workers and businesses an opportunity to compete on a level playing field."

Mr Ross had also said at the meeting: "It is time to rebalance our trade and investment relationship in a more fair, equitable and reciprocal manner."

"If this were just the natural product of free market forces, we could understand it, but it is not," he added.

Mr Wang was quoted by China Daily as saying at an event a day before the meeting: "I am sure any business with vision would value such a huge market, and any government with ambition would value cooperation with China."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2017, with the headline 'Tensions resurface at US-China trade talks'. Print Edition | Subscribe