Donald Trump to meet with China trade negotiator

May 18, 2018, 04:19 IST | AFP

China's Vice Premier Liu He leads the trade delegation from Beijing that also will meet Thursday and Friday with a US team led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump is due to meet Thursday with China's top trade negotiator, a White House official said, as talks resume to keep frictions between the economic powers from becoming a trade war.

China's Vice Premier Liu He leads the trade delegation from Beijing that also will meet Thursday and Friday with a US team led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

"The president is meeting with Liu this afternoon," economic advisor Larry Kudlow told reporters.

"It means that there's great interest here in furthering the deal and furthering negotiations and trying to reach some remedies regarding unfair and illegal trading practices. That's what we want." The US has threatened to impose 25 percent punitive duties on up to $150 billion in Chinese goods while China has targeted $50 billion in American exports.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer also will participate in the talks, which the White House said are focused on "rebalancing" trade relations but which have US complaints over how China treats American intellectual property at their center.

In Beijing, the commerce ministry said China hoped the two sides could resolve the trade frictions during the talks.
"But of course we've prepared a response for various possibilities," said spokesman Gao Feng at a Thursday press briefing.

The talks, part of a busy week of trade negotiations and tight deadlines in Washington, have become enmeshed in political intrigue after a Trump advisor considered a hardliner on China was left out.

Trump economic aide Peter Navarro, who was seen as having a more dominant role following the departure of White House economic advisor Gary Cohn over trade issues, was left off the list of participants, unlike the talks in Beijing two weeks ago.

According to press reports, Navarro sparred with Mnuchin over his handling of the China talks and was barred from attending the meetings this week, but Kudlow downplayed those reports.

Trump has also faced accusations of quid-pro-quo after vowing to soften punitive US sanctions on the Chinese telecoms equipment firm ZTE -- an announcement which came after AFP reported that a Chinese state firm would pour cash into a Trump-tied real estate venture in Indonesia.

Trump, however, has denied "folding" in the US stance toward ZTE. The administration also this week is trying to reach a deal with Canada and Mexico to revise the 24-year old North American Free Trade Agreement and ease tensions with the European Union over the steep steel and aluminum tariffs.

The EU has a temporary exemption from the tariffs but that waiver expires June 1. Ross said he has been discussing the issue with his European counterpart, including the possibility of imposing import quotas on the trade bloc.

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