China sees intensive contact with US this month ahead of Sept trade talks

US and Chinese negotiators ended a brief round of trade talks with little sign of progress on July 31, 2019.
US and Chinese negotiators ended a brief round of trade talks with little sign of progress on July 31, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Chinese and US working teams will be in intensive contact this month to prepare “good groundwork” for the next round of face-to-face trade talks in September, the commerce ministry said on Thursday (Aug 1).

US and Chinese negotiators ended a brief round of trade talks on Wednesday (July 31) with little sign of progress and agreed to meet again in September. It was their first in-person talks since presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping agreed to a trade ceasefire at a G20 summit in June. 

The world’s two biggest economies have levied billions of dollars of tariffs on each other’s goods in a year-long trade war, disrupting global supply chains and roiling financial markets. 

 Talks between the two sides broke down in May after US officials accused China of pulling back from earlier commitments. Washington sharply hiked tariffs on some Chinese goods and Beijing retaliated, escalating the trade dispute.

“With regards to this (week’s) round of negotiations, both sides communicated over two topics: One is how we view the past - we mainly discussed why negotiations broke down and clarified our views on some economic and trade issues,” commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng told reporters at a regular briefing. 

"The other one is how we view the future to ascertain the principles and methodology of negotiations, as well as relevant timetables.” 

When asked to elaborate on the working-level meetings prior to the next high-level meeting, Gao said: "As you mentioned, before our next consultation in September, the two teams will conduct intensive discussions in August in preparation for the next consultation to be held in September, which is the meeting to be held for both leaders of the respective delegations.”

China and the United States can find a solution to trade issues if both sides’ concerns are taken into consideration, Gao said, reiterating past comments from Beijing. 

Two people familiar with the latest talks said they focused largely on goodwill gestures including Chinese purchases of US soybeans, pork, ethanol and other commodities, and US moves to relax restrictions on sales to Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.

The month-long delay until the next meeting gives both sides time to take action on these commitments, the Washington-based sources said.