US, China Trade Envoys to Hold Talks 01/17 06:03
The top U.S. and Chinese trade envoys will hold talks in Washington this
month in a possible sign of progress toward ending a costly tariff battle over
Beijing's technology ambitions.
BEIJING (AP) -- The top U.S. and Chinese trade envoys will hold talks in
Washington this month in a possible sign of progress toward ending a costly
tariff battle over Beijing's technology ambitions.
The Ministry of Commerce announcement of the Jan. 30-31 event was the first
sign of a next step by the two sides following negotiations in Beijing earlier
this month between lower-level officials.
China's economy czar, Vice Premier Liu He, was invited by U.S. Trade
Representative Robert Lighthizer, the ministry said.
Economists and business groups said earlier that a decision by Liu and
Lighthizer to take part in person would indicate technical discussions made
enough progress to require high-level political decisions.
The two sides have imposed tariff hikes of up to 25 percent on tens of
billions of dollars of each other's goods in the fight over U.S. complaints
Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology. Washington also
is pressing China to roll back plans for state-led industry development that
its trading partners say violate its market-opening obligations.
The Washington talks are aimed at carrying out the Dec. 1 agreement by
Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping to suspend further tariff increases for
90 days while they negotiate, said Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng.
They are likely to take up more complex U.S. complaints about Chinese policy
on which lower-level officials "couldn't give a clear response," said Yu
Chunhai, a trade expert at Renmin University in Beijing.
Chinese officials have suggested Beijing might adjust its industry plans.
But they reject pressure to abandon what they consider a path to prosperity and
Liu probably will tell U.S. officials "what China can and can't do," said Yu.
For their part, Chinese leaders object to U.S. export controls on "dual use"
technology with possible military uses. They say Chinese companies are treated
unfairly in national security reviews of proposed corporate acquisitions,
though almost all deals are approved unchanged.
"Such communication must be made between officials at a higher level," said
Neither side has shown any sign of changing its basic position. Economists
say the 90-day window is too short to resolve conflicts that have strained
their relations for nearly two decades.
Chinese exports to the United States held up through much of 2018 despite
Trump's tariff hikes but contracted by 3.5 percent in December compared with a
year earlier as the penalties began to depress demand.
Liu held talks in June in Beijing with U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross
as trade tensions mounted. They failed to produce a settlement and Trump went
ahead the next month with his first tariff hikes.
Liu made a surprise appearance at this month's talks in Beijing. Financial
markets took that as a positive sign. Global stock markets rose but then fell
back after the meeting produced no agreements.
U.S.-Chinese relations are increasingly strained over technology, trade and
This month's talks in Beijing went ahead despite the arrest of an executive
of Chinese technology giant Huawei in Canada on Dec. 1. The United States wants
her extradited on charges that she lied to a bank about dealings with Iran.
On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported U.S. prosecutors are
investigating whether Huawei stole trade secrets from U.S. companies.
The investigation was prompted in part by a lawsuit brought by T-Mobile U.S.
Inc. that accused two Huawei employees of stealing technology for a robotic arm
used to test mobile phones, the Journal said, citing unidentified sources. The
two companies settled their dispute in 2017.
"We doubt the intentions behind this," said a foreign ministry spokeswoman,
Hua Chunying. She said it would be "inconsistent with the rules of free and
fair competition" if U.S. authorities "arbitrarily used the state apparatus to
suppress Chinese enterprises."
Beijing has tried to defuse pressure for more sweeping changes by
emphasizing its growing importance as an import market and promising more
access to its auto and some other industries.
Trump has complained repeatedly about the U.S. trade deficit with China.
China reported Monday its 2018 trade surplus with the United States swelled to
a record $323.3 billion.
Beijing also faces complaints from the European Union. The 28-nation trade
bloc has filed a challenge in the World Trade Organization against Chinese
licensing rules it says hinder foreign companies from protecting and profiting
from their own technologies.