WASHINGTON - Chinese and US negotiators are mapping out talks to try to end their trade standoff ahead of planned meetings between US President Donald Trump and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at multilateral summits in November, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday (Aug 18), citing officials in both nations.
Scheduled midlevel talks in Washington next week, which both sides announced on Thursday, will pave the way for November, the newspaper said.
A nine-member delegation from Beijing, led by Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen, will meet with US officials led by the Treasury undersecretary, David Malpass, on Aug 22-23.
The negotiations are aimed at finding a way for both sides to address the trade disputes and could lead to more talks, the WSJ cites officials as saying.
The talks represent a clear move by Beijing to get relations with Washington back on track that were cordial early in the Trump presidency and involved coordination to rein in North Korea, the report said.
Those relations have soured, especially after Mr Trump's initial tariffs on Chinese imports, which he said were designed to punish Beijing for alleged intellectual-property violations and technology theft. The resulting tit-for-tat of trade threats and retaliation has hit China's currency and stock markets.
Mr Xi has instructed lieutenants to try to stabilise the bilateral relationship as soon as possible, according to advisers to the Chinese government cited by the WSJ.
A prolonged and broader conflict with Washington, many officials and experts in China say, threatens to derail the Chinese leader's plans to remake the economy and transform China into a global superpower.
The talks, though, could also get derailed, especially as the US continues to levy tariffs. So far the US has imposed levies on US$34 billion in Chinese goods, with tariffs on an additional US$16 billion in goods scheduled to take effect next week.
China has matched those tariffs dollar-for-dollar.
The WSJ said, citing people briefed on the discussions, that the US Treasury and the National Economic Council have put together a pared-down list of requests to China that they think could be a basis for a deal. But the US Trade Representative's office, which is in charge of tariffs, wants to hold off on negotiations, arguing that additional levies would give the US more bargaining power by October.
So far, Mr Trump hasn't decided between the two camps and will weigh in when there is a deal on the table, officials were cited by the WSJ as saying.
Messrs Trump and Xi would meet first at the leaders' summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, which involves 21 economies, in mid-November, said officials in both nations. That would be followed by a second session at the Group of 20 leaders' summit in Buenos Aires at the end of November.
In Beijing, senior Chinese officials in recent days have been meeting with US business executives, trying to get them to lobby the Trump administration against its proposed tariffs.
On Friday, Zhang Mao, head of China's antitrust body, met Craig Allen, president of the US-China Business Council, and some representatives from American companies, according to the antitrust body's website.
Mr Zhang stressed the need to negotiate, according to the statement, and called for US companies operating in China to "play an active role" in developing the bilateral trade relationship.
In Washington, business groups have been urging the White House to ease their demands of China.