China leader's top economic adviser heads to the US for trade talks

Liu He, Chinese President Xi Jinping's top economic adviser, will be in the United States from Feb 27 to March 3, 2018.
Liu He, Chinese President Xi Jinping's top economic adviser, will be in the United States from Feb 27 to March 3, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Chinese President Xi Jinping's top economic adviser, Liu He, will visit the United States this week, China's Foreign Ministry said on Monday (Feb 26), at a time of tension between the two countries over trade.

Liu will be in the United States from Tuesday (Feb 27) to Saturday (March 3), ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a daily news briefing.

Views will be exchanged "on China-US relations and the two countries' economic and trade cooperation", the spokesman said, confirming reports from the United States on the trip, but without giving other details.

Liu, a Harvard-trained economist and trusted confidant of President Xi, has emerged as the front-runner to be the next governor of China's central bank, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

Xi's top adviser on economic policy is also expected to become vice premier overseeing the Chinese economy, part of a government reshuffle coinciding with the annual meeting of China's parliament that opens on March 5 and is likely to last about two weeks.

A senior US official said last week that there will be discussions on trade disputes with Liu when he visits Washington.

On the US side, the talks will be led by President Donald Trump's trade envoy, Robert Lighthizer.

The discussions will take place as Donald Trump considers new tariffs on steel imports.

Trump has long sought a way to a more balanced trade relationship with China and threatened to impose a big "fine"against China to protect American intellectual property.

The US official said Trump had been discussing imposing a global tariff on imports of steel from China and other countries.

The US Commerce Department on Feb 16 recommended that Trump impose stiff curbs on steel imports from China and other countries and offered the president several options, ranging from global and country-specific tariffs to broad import quotas.

A blanket tariff on steel would cover every steel and aluminium product entering the United State market from China, the world's largest steel producer.