China and the US on Monday started a fresh round of face-to-face negotiations here to ease a bitter trade war between the world’s two largest economies amid growing concerns about China’s slowing economy and its impact on American businesses.
Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He unexpectedly attended the first day of talks aimed at resolving the trade dispute, reported Bloomberg citing people familiar with the matter. Liu is the top economic adviser to Chinese President Xi Jinping, who led previous negotiations in Washington that produced a deal that US President Donald Trump then repudiated. China had previously said the talks would be led by a lower-ranking official from the Ministry of Commerce.
Liu’s participation in the meeting signals that China is attaching high importance to the talks.
The Chinese foreign ministry stated that the country “has the good faith, on the basis of mutual respect and equality, to resolve the bilateral trade frictions”. The US and China have been locked in an escalating trade spat since early 2018, raising import tariffs on more than $300 billion of each other’s goods.
Last year, Trump imposed tariff hikes of up to 25 per cent on $250 billion of Chinese goods. The move prompted China to increase tariffs on $110 billion of US goods. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to halt any further tariff increases for 90 days beginning January 1.
Deputy US trade representative Jeffrey Gerrish is leading the US delegation at the two-day talks.
China is facing the daunting task of presenting a credible plan to meet Trump’s demands to cut down the $375 billion trade deficit.
Ahead of the talks, a Chinese government adviser on trade said, “The vice-ministerial talks won’t solve all the problems but both sides are expected to take the chance to check their respective demands and offers and to check any chance to reach a trade deal.”
Ahead of the talks, China softened its stand by offering a mix of concessions by resuming purchases of US soybeans, suspended punitive tariffs on imports of US cars and toned down its “Made in China 2025” hi-tech policy.
It has also proposed clear bans on forced technology transfer in new draft foreign investment legislation.
Both sides have set March 1 as the deadline to defuse trade tensions.
A day before the talks, Trump on Sunday said: “I think China wants to get it resolved. Their economy’s not doing very well.”