US trade negotiators will travel to China in ‘very near future’, says official

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He (left) shakes hands with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer (right) alongside US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (centre) as Liu leaves the Office of the United States Trade Representative after trade negotiations in Washington, DC, May 10, 2019. — AFP pic
Chinese Vice Premier Liu He (left) shakes hands with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer (right) alongside US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (centre) as Liu leaves the Office of the United States Trade Representative after trade negotiations in Washington, DC, May 10, 2019. — AFP pic

WASHINGTON, July 12 — US officials will soon resume face-to-face trade talks in China, a White House official said today, reviving negotiations that had verged on collapse in May.

President Donald Trump and China’s leader Xi Jinping agreed to “fully engage” on trade when they met in Osaka at the end of June, and since then trade officials have spoken by phone, White House trade advisor Peter Navarro said on CNBC.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will go to Beijing “in the very near future and we’re going to have constructive talks to deal with these significant structural issues,” Navarro said.

The trade dispute has roiled global financial markets and undermined business confidence as Washington and Beijing have lashed out at each other with punitive tariffs on about US$360 billion in goods.

The sides appeared to be close to a deal as recently as April but Trump accused China of reneging on its commitments, scuttling the talks until the leaders met on the sidelines on Group of 20 summit in Osaka, where Navarro said they made a “strong commitment” to restart negotiations.

Trump at that meeting agreed to hold off on his threat to hit China with another round of steep tariffs that would cover nearly all the goods exported to the US market.

In another Twitter outburst today, Trump called tariffs “a great negotiating tool” and “a great revenue producer.”

And he again accused China of weakening its currency to compensate for the 25 percent tariff.

Lighthizer and Mnuchin spoke with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and Commerce Minister Zhong Shan by phone on Tuesday, but officials have not provided any details on the status or the topics discussed other than to say they were constructive.

“We are, in my judgment, in a quiet period for the negotiations. My advice for investors is to be patient with this process,” Navarro said.

“Don’t believe anything you read in either the Chinese or the US press about these negotiations unless it comes from the mouths of either the President or Ambassador Lighthizer.” — AFP

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