US and Chinese negotiators began trade talks Thursday that President Trump says will help decide whether he escalates a fight over Beijing’s technology ambitions by raising tariffs on $200-B of imports from China.
The chief American envoy, Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and his Chinese counterpart, Vice Premier Liu He, shook hands at the start of the meeting at a government guesthouse but said nothing to reporters.
Washington demands that Beijing scale back plans for government-led creation of global competitors in robotics and other technologies. China’s trading partners say those violate Beijing’s market-opening obligations and some American officials worry they might erode US industrial leadership.
President Trump agreed in December to postpone more tariff hikes while the 2 sides negotiate. That expires on 1 March. The following day, a 10% tariff imposed in July on $200-B of Chinese imports would rise to 25%
Tuesday, President Trump said while he is not inclined to extend the deadline, he might let it “slide for a little while” if talks go well. Earlier, the White House called 2 March a “hard deadline.”
Business groups see the decision by the Top trade envoys, Messrs Lighthizer and Liu, to take part in person as a sign the negotiations are making progress. Thursday was their 2nd meeting following negotiations last month in Washington.
The US delegation includes Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and David Malpass.
Beijing has tried to deflect pressure by emphasizing China’s growth as an export market. It has announced changes over the past year to open finance and other fields, including allowing full foreign ownership in its auto industry for the 1st time.
Regulators have announced plans to improve protection of foreign patents and copyrights.
It is unclear whether that will satisfy Washington and other governments that complain the system is rigged to extract technology from foreign companies and to use official industrial standards to shield Chinese enterprises from competition.
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