Caixin
Feb 09, 2019 05:11 PM

Top U.S. and Chinese Trade Officials to Meet This Week in Beijing

Top U.S. officials will arrive in China this week for a third round of negotiations to try to resolve their bilateral tariff dispute ahead of a March 1 deadline to avoid an increase in U.S. tariff rates.

A delegation headed by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will travel to Beijing for “principal-level meetings” that will take place from February 14 through February 15, the White House announced in a statement on Friday. Lower-level officials will begin meeting on Monday, with the U.S. delegation led by Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish, who also led the first round of talks.

The delegation also includes Treasury Undersecretary for International Affairs David Malpass, according to the statement. Last week, President Donald Trump nominated Malpass, a critic of multilateral institutions, to be president of the World Bank.

This will be the third round of face-to-face talks between Chinese and U.S. officials since Chinese President Xi Jinping and Trump agreed on December 1 to a “ceasefire” on additional tariff increases to give time for negotiators to reach a comprehensive deal.

Washington has threatened to raise its tariff rate on $200 billion of Chinese imports to 25% from the current 10% starting at 12:01 a.m. March 2 if a trade deal isn’t reached in time.

Though the previous two rounds of talks showed signs of optimism, more recent developments have rattled the financial markets and dampened hopes that a trade deal could be reached quickly. On Thursday, Trump said he did not expect to meet his Chinese President Xi Jinping before the March 1 deadline, after having earlier said he needed to meet Xi to iron out the most difficult issues in the trade dispute.

In his State of the Union address delivered Tuesday, Trump said any deal with China must ensure “real, structural change to end unfair trade practices,” narrow the country’s trade deficit and save American jobs.

China and the U.S. held their last round of talk in Washington at the end of January, in which China agreed to cooperate with the U.S. on intellectual property protection and technology transfers, and purchase more agricultural, energy and manufacturing products and services from the U.S.

For the third round of talk, negotiations will focus on intellectual property protection as a prerequisite for a final trade deal, Reuters reported on Friday.

Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to the United States, said in the U.S. earlier this week that a good relationship between China and the U.S. is “more urgent than any other time”, state-run news agency Xinhua reported (link in Chinese).

Last year, China had a trade surplus of $323.3 billion with the U.S., up 17% from 2017, as growth in exports far outpaced that in imports partly due to a rush by Chinese exporters to “front load” the delivery of orders from their American clients before Washington raised its tariff rates.

Fran Wang contributed to the report

Contact reporter Mo Yelin (yelinmo@caixin.com)


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