US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Saturday that he plans to speak privately with China's central bank governor about trade on the sidelines of annual Group of 20 finance talks in southern Japan, but has no direct message to give him.
Mnuchin and Yi Gang, chairman of the People's Bank of China, are due to hold routine talks on various issues and then break away for their discussion on trade. Yi, he noted, has participated in now-stalled talks between Washington and Beijing over the trade and technology dispute between the two largest economies.
"This will be a one-on-one with Gov Yi to talk alone about the trade issues," Mnuchin told reporters. But he added, "I would expect the main progress will be at the G20 meetings of the presidents." He said there were no plans for trade talks in Washington or Beijing before Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping are due to meet in Osaka for the G20 summit on June 28-29.
The Trump administration began slapping tariffs on imports of Chinese goods nearly a year ago, accusing Beijing of using predatory means to lend Chinese companies an edge in advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and electric vehicles.
Those tactics, the US contends, include hacking into US companies' computers to steal trade secrets, forcing foreign companies to hand over sensitive technology in exchange for access to the Chinese market and unfairly subsidising Chinese tech firms.
The United States now is imposing 25 per cent taxes on $250 billion in Chinese goods. Beijing has counterpunched by targeting $110 billion worth of American products, focusing on farm goods such as soybeans in a deliberate effort to inflict pain on Trump supporters in the US heartland.
The US side has been preparing to expand retaliatory tariff hikes of 25 per cent on another $300 billion of Chinese products, and Mnuchin indicated it was prepared to take that step if negotiations with Beijing fail. But he said Trump had not yet made a decision on that, suggesting room for further delays depending on the outcome of his discussion with Xi later this month.