US, China to meet on trade again in June

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will visit China from June 2 to 4. The trade dispute was further complicated when US President Donald Trump announced a national security investigation into imports of cars and trucks.
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will visit China from June 2 to 4. The trade dispute was further complicated when US President Donald Trump announced a national security investigation into imports of cars and trucks.PHOTO: NYTIMES

US Commerce Secretary to head to China to negotiate a 'framework' for agreements

BEIJING • US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will visit China early next month for another round of talks amid ongoing trade frictions between the world's two largest economies.

Mr Ross will visit China from June 2 to 4, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported yesterday, adding that Vice-Premier Liu He, China's chief negotiator in the trade dispute, had spoken with Mr Ross over the phone. It gave no further details.

The trade dispute took on added complexity this week when US President Donald Trump announced a national security investigation into imports of cars and trucks, a probe that could lead to tariffs against China as well as key US allies such as Canada, Mexico, Japan and Germany.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC on Monday that Mr Ross is aiming to negotiate "a framework" that could then turn into "binding agreements... between companies".

In the last round of talks in Washington in the middle of this month, China agreed to ramp up purchases of US agriculture and energy products, and the two sides worked towards a possible reprieve for ZTE Corp from a US ban on American companies supplying the Chinese maker of telecoms equipment.

The developments and constructive comments from both sides eased fears that the United States and China could plunge into a trade war, but President Donald Trump said this week that any deal would need "a different structure", fuelling uncertainty over the negotiations.

Mr Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on up to US$150 billion (S$201 billion) of Chinese goods to combat what he says is Beijing's misappropriation of US technology through joint venture requirements and other policies.

Beijing has threatened equal retaliation, including tariffs on some of its largest US imports.

The Trump administration, over the objections of lawmakers, is continuing to try to soften its punishment of ZTE.

On Thursday, Mr Ross said the administration was considering placing an American compliance team inside ZTE to ensure the company was meeting its requirements and not violating sanctions. The company was punished for violating US sanctions against Iran and North Korea, and then lying about it. The company is on the verge of shutting down after the US barred it from buying American components.

"We're developing a matrix of things, and while we haven't come quite to a final decision yet, we think there may very well be an alternative that will be quite punitive to them, but really modify behaviour," Mr Ross said in an interview with CNBC on Thursday.

REUTERS, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2018, with the headline 'US, China to meet on trade again in June'. Print Edition | Subscribe