US, Chinese trade deputy talks to start in two days, says USTR

Chinese staffers adjust US and Chinese flags before the opening session of trade negotiations between US and Chinese trade representatives in Beijing February 14, 2019. — Reuters pic
Chinese staffers adjust US and Chinese flags before the opening session of trade negotiations between US and Chinese trade representatives in Beijing February 14, 2019. — Reuters pic

WASHINGTON, Sept 17 — Deputy-level US-China trade talks are scheduled to start in Washington on Thursday, the US Trade Representative's office said yesterday, paving the way for high-level talks in October aimed at resolving a bitter trade war.

A USTR spokesman did not offer any further details about the deputy-level talks.

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

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

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

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

“While I'm optimistic about it, I'm also a dead-ass realist and this is not a simple problem,” Donohue said of the new round of talks.

Lighthizer and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are expected to meet with China's top negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He, in early October.

President Donald Trump last week delayed a tariff increase that had been scheduled for October 1 on US$250 billion (RM1.04 trillion) worth of Chinese goods after China also delayed tariffs on some US imports.

The world's two largest economies have not held in-person talks since late July toward resolving their 14-month trade war, which has roiled markets, disrupted supply chains and threatened global growth.

Economic factors are weighing on both sides, said Stephen Kho, former acting chief counsel on China enforcement at USTR who is now a partner at Akin Gump law firm.

“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,” Kho said. — Reuters

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