US-China trade talks at deputy level set to start tomorrow

Containers from China and other Asian countries at the Port of Los Angeles. Washington and Beijing have not held in-person talks since late July, which has roiled markets, disrupted supply chains and threatened global growth. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRE
Containers from China and other Asian countries at the Port of Los Angeles. Washington and Beijing have not held in-person talks since late July, which has roiled markets, disrupted supply chains and threatened global growth. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Mixed expectations for precursor of next month's high-level meeting to end impasse

WASHINGTON • Deputy-level US-China trade talks are scheduled to start in Washington tomorrow, the office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) said on Monday, paving the way for high-level talks next month aimed at resolving a bitter, 14-month trade war.

Earlier, US Chamber of Commerce chief executive Tom Donohue said Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told business executives he was seeking a "real agreement" that addresses intellectual-property and technology-transfer issues first raised by the USTR two years ago.

Mr Donohue, speaking at a news conference to urge congressional approval of the US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, said Mr Lighthizer "did indicate that there was some movement in the direction of purchasing of (US) agricultural products and other issues".

But Mr Lighthizer gave no indication that the talks may produce an interim deal with a more limited scope, as suggested by some media reports, Mr Donohue said.

The head of the biggest US business lobbying group added that it would be difficult to secure an agreement fully addressing American demands for sweeping changes to China's intellectual-property and technology-transfer practices, market access and subsidy issues.

Mr Donohue said he is optimistic about the new round of talks, but he knows it is not a simple problem.

Leading the Chinese delegation in the talks will be Vice-Finance Minister Liao Min, the Chinese commerce ministry said yesterday.

The visit will pave the way for the China-US high-level economic and trade consultations in Washington next month, the ministry added.

Mr Lighthizer and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are expected to meet China's top negotiator, Vice-Premier Liu He, early next month.

President Donald Trump last week delayed a tariff increase that had been scheduled for Oct 1 on US$250 billion (S$344 billion) worth of Chinese goods after China also held back tariffs on some American imports.

The world's two largest economies have not held in-person talks since late July, which has roiled markets, disrupted supply chains and threatened global growth.

Economic factors are weighing on both sides, said Mr Stephen Kho, former acting chief counsel on China enforcement at USTR.

"Both sides are feeling the pain now. So an interim deal could be done, but, if they're looking for a comprehensive deal ... that will be very hard," Mr Kho said.

REUTERS

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2019, with the headline 'US-China trade talks at deputy level set to start tomorrow'. Print Edition | Subscribe