China state media strikes positive note after trade talks with US

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (left) and US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross head to the Diaoyutai State Guest House to meet Chinese officials in Beijing on May 4, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Chinese state media struck an optimistic note on trade talks between Chinese and US officials after US President Donald Trump threatened to impose tariffs on up to US$150 billion (S$200 billion) in Chinese goods over allegations of intellectual property theft.

The English-language China Daily saw a "positive development" in the two days of talks in an agreement to establish a mechanism to keep the dialogue open, despite "big differences", as part an effort to resolve trade disputes.

The newspaper said the biggest achievement was "the constructive agreement between Beijing and Washington to keep discussing contentious trade issues, instead of continuing the two-way barrage of tariffs, which pretty much brought the two countries to the brink of a trade war".

The People's Daily said the talks "laid solid foundation for further talks on trade and economic cooperation, and for ultimately achieving benefits (to both countries) and win-win results".

China's state-run Xinhua news agency described the talks as "constructive, candid and efficient" but with disagreements that remain "relatively big".

People familiar with the talks said on Friday the Trump administration had drawn a hard line, demanding a US$200 billion cut in the Chinese trade surplus with the United States, sharply lower tariffs and advanced technology subsidies.

The lengthy list of demands was presented to Beijing before the start of talks on Thursday and Friday to try to avert a damaging trade war between the world's two largest economies.

A White House statement issued on Friday said the US delegation, led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, "held frank discussions with Chinese officials on rebalancing the United States-China bilateral economic relationship, improving China's protection of intellectual property, and identifying policies that unfairly enforce technology transfers".

The statement gave no indication that Trump would back off on his threat to impose tariffs.

The delegation was returning to Washington to brief Trump and "seek his decision on next steps", the White House said, adding that the administration had "consensus" for "immediate attention" to change the US-China trade and investment relationship.

Trump said he would meet the delegation on Saturday.

"We will be meeting tomorrow to determine the results, but it is hard for China in that they have become very spoiled with US trade wins!" he said in a Twitter post late on Friday.

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