US hopes for 'substantial progress' in China trade talks

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin arriving at a hotel in Beijing yesterday ahead of trade talks with Chinese officials.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin arriving at a hotel in Beijing yesterday ahead of trade talks with Chinese officials.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BEIJING • US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin yesterday said he hopes to make "substantial progress" with Chinese negotiators in the next two rounds of trade talks, as the world's two largest economies look for ways to end their bruising trade war.

Mr Mnuchin was speaking in Beijing, where he and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will hold talks this week, before Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He goes to Washington next week for another round of talks in what could be the end game for the negotiations.

Beijing and Washington have cited progress on issues including intellectual property and forced technology transfer to help end a conflict marked by tit-for-tat tariffs that have cost both sides billions of dollars, disrupted supply chains and roiled financial markets.

But US officials say privately that an enforcement mechanism for a deal and timelines for lifting tariffs are sticking points.

Mr Mnuchin told The New York Times the talks would continue to focus on China's practice of subsidising industries.

Meanwhile, at a meeting with a group of former US lawmakers, the Chinese government's top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, said the two countries' interests were deeply connected. "In recent months, both countries' economic and trade teams have held many rounds of high-level consultations and achieved much positive progress," China's Foreign Ministry paraphrased Mr Wang as saying.

While Chinese officials said that they view the enforcement mechanism as crucial, they added it cannot only put restraints on China.

 
 

Last week, President Xi Jinping vowed to abolish unreasonable subsidies to Chinese firms, addressing the key US demand head-on.

"We will overhaul and abolish unjustified regulations, subsidies and practices that impede fair competition and distort the market," Mr Xi told world leaders at a summit in Beijing on his signature Belt and Road global infrastructure project.

China's State Council, its Cabinet, has in recent months returned repeatedly to the idea of competitive neutrality, meaning equal treatment for private and state-owned businesses, and domestic and multinational firms.

Separately, International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde on Monday said that she expected the United States and China to reach a deal to end their trade dispute, which has unnerved financial markets and cast a shadow over the global economy.

"I would say 'yes'," Ms Lagarde said at the Milken Institute Global Conference in California, when asked whether talks between the world's two largest economies would end in a deal.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 01, 2019, with the headline 'US hopes for 'substantial progress' in China trade talks'. Print Edition | Subscribe