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'So far, so good,' Mnuchin says of trade talks in China

Reuters  |  BEIJING 

By Ben and Philip Wen

(Reuters) - said talks with went well on Wednesday, as the world's two largest economies try to iron out an agreement to resolve their trade dispute.

"So far, so good," he said when asked by reporters on how the meetings in went. He did not say who he met.

Mnuchin said earlier he hoped for "productive" trade meetings as the two countries seek to end a festering dispute that has seen both sides level tariffs at one other.

U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of imports from are scheduled to rise to 25 percent from 10 percent if the two sides cannot reach a deal by a March 1 deadline, increasing pain and costs in sectors from to agriculture.

Mnuchin, asked by reporters as he left his hotel what his hopes were for the visit, said "productive meetings". He did not elaborate.

Mnuchin, along with U.S. Trade Robert Lighthizer, arrived in the Chinese capital on Tuesday.

U.S. said on Tuesday that he could let the deadline for a trade agreement "slide for a little while," but that he would prefer not to and expects to meet with Chinese to close the deal at some point.

Trump's advisers have previously described March 1 as a "hard deadline," but Trump told reporters that a delay was now possible.

He said in December that the 90-day truce could be extended, but that he could revert to tariffs if differences could not be resolved.

A growing number of U.S. businesses and lawmakers have expressed hopes for a delay in the tariff increase while the two sides tackle the difficult U.S. demands for major structural policy changes by aimed at ending the forced transfer of American trade secrets, curbing Beijing's industrial subsidies and enforcing intellectual property rights.

Trump said last week he did not plan to meet with Xi before the March 1 deadline.

Mnuchin and Lighthizer are scheduled to hold talks on Thursday and Friday with Liu He, the top

The latest round of talks in Beijing kicked off on Monday with discussions among deputy-level officials to try to work out technical details, including a mechanism for enforcing any trade agreement.

referred questions on the talks to the Ministry of Commerce, which did not respond to a request for comment.

A round of talks at the end of January ended with some progress reported, but no deal, and U.S. declarations that much more work was needed.

DODGE A BULLET

James Green, a senior research fellow at Georgetown University, said he believed China was looking to secure a Xi-Trump meeting in the hope that it would make a near-term deal on tariffs far more likely.

"From their point of view, they would have dodged a bullet," Green, who was USTR's top at the until mid-2018, told by telephone.

But there is growing bipartisan concern in the about increasing state control of China's economy, military activity in the Sea, and security issues around its companies.

Even if the two sides could come to terms on tariffs, that might not mean an end to trade friction, Green added.

"I think that whatever we might get for an agreement, it will be a pause, because the is still going to move forward in the telecoms sector, on and legal action, and on sanctions-related issues."

U.S. of State cautioned allies on Monday against deploying equipment from Chinese on their soil, saying it would make it more difficult for to "partner alongside them".

The and its Western allies believe Huawei's apparatus could be used for espionage, and see its expansion into as a way to gain a foothold in the market.

Both the and Huawei have dismissed these concerns.

(Reporting by Philip Wen, Ben and Michael Martina; Editing by and Nick Macfie)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, February 13 2019. 18:34 IST
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