US-China trade talks set to resume amid optimism

WASHINGTON • US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will return to Beijing next week as the United States and China inch towards resolving their trade war, a senior administration official has said.

The renewed shuttle diplomacy is a sign of progress in the talks after several weeks in which momentum towards a resolution appeared to have slowed.

Following next week's talks in Beijing, Chinese trade envoy Liu He will return to Washington the following week, The Wall Street Journal reported, adding that officials said talks were in their final stages.

US President Donald Trump told reporters the meetings were going "very well", reiterating the positive message of recent months.

But Mr Trump said last week that he was in "no rush" to strike a bargain, insisting any deal had to do more than make cosmetic changes and adding that an outcome one way or the other was likely to occur in "three to four weeks".

US and Chinese officials in recent weeks have alternated between projecting optimism and warning that they still have much to do.

US officials are demanding far-reaching changes to Chinese industrial policy and insist that any agreement must be enforceable.

 
 
 

China has been willing to increase purchases of American commodities such as energy and soya beans, but analysts say they will be reluctant to accede to American demands in ways that could weaken the Communist Party's hold on power - such as fully exposing state enterprises to market forces.

Last Friday, China's rubber-stamp Parliament approved a foreign investment law to strengthen protection for intellectual property - a central US grievance - but foreign businesses said they were not given enough time to add input.

The law was adopted barely three months after a first draft was debated, an unusually quick turnaround for the legislature, which meets once a year.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2019, with the headline 'US-China trade talks set to resume amid optimism'. Print Edition | Subscribe