WASHINGTON • United States negotiators are preparing to press China this week on longstanding demands that it reform how it treats American companies' intellectual property in order to seal a trade deal that could prevent tariffs from rising on Chinese imports.
A new round of trade talks begins in Beijing tomorrow, after the most recent set of negotiations concluded in Washington last month without a deal and with the top US negotiator declaring that a lot more work needed to be done.
A White House official said last Friday that preparations were under way and the talks would continue to focus on pressing Beijing to make structural reforms.
The White House announced a timeframe for the Beijing talks in a statement and said lower-level officials would kick off the meetings tomorrow before higher principal-level talks take place on Thursday and Friday. US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He will lead those talks.
Mr Liu, China's top trade negotiator, had met Mr Lighthizer and Mr Mnuchin for two days of talks in Washington last month.
Mr Lighthizer, named by President Trump to spearhead the process after agreeing to a 90-day truce in the trade war with Beijing, has been a strong proponent of pushing China to make reforms and end what the US views as unfair trade practices, including stealing intellectual property and forcing US companies to share their technology with Chinese firms. China has denied it engages in such practices.
The two sides are trying to hammer out a deal ahead of the March 1 deadline, when US tariffs on US$200 billion (S$271 billion) worth of Chinese imports are scheduled to increase to 25 per cent from 10 per cent.
Mr Trump said last Thursday he did not plan to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping before that deadline, dampening hopes that a trade pact could be reached quickly.
"I don't think either side is expecting a draft of something next week," said Ms Erin Ennis, senior vice-president of the US-China Business Council.
Another source, who had been briefed on the talks, said a lot of work also needed to be done on an enforcement mechanism for a potential deal.
"If there's some indication that they're making progress on subsidies, forced tech transfer and the constellation of issues there and an enforcement mechanism, that would be interesting," the source said.