Clock ticks on tariff truce as US and China hold second day of trade talks
China and the United States are into a second day of trade talks but there is no word from either side on progress to meet a March 1 deadline for a deal.
The discussions are meant to pave the way for top-level talks on Thursday and Friday involving US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He.
The two countries have until March 1 to reach a deal, or the US will raise tariffs on US$200 billion of Chinese goods from 10 per cent to 25 per cent.
Analysts have said it would be difficult for the world’s two largest economies to resolve their trade disputes by the designated date, given the challenge of US demands for structural reform in China to address issues of intellectual property protection, forced technology transfers and state subsidies favouring domestic companies.
Other issues being negotiated include the trade imbalance in China’s favour, cybertheft, currency controls, market access and an enforcement mechanism for any agreements made.
The talks this week will be led on the Chinese side by Vice-Premier Liu He, Beijing’s chief trade negotiator.
Liu travelled to Washington at the end of January, where he said trade discussions had “achieved a lot of important consensus” towards a deal, but that any deal would ultimately be reached between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
But Trump said Thursday that he would not meet Xi before the deadline. White House adviser Kellyanne Conway told US broadcaster Fox News on Monday that it “absolutely” looked like a deal to end the trade war was close, adding that Trump “wants to meet with President Xi very soon”.
The South China Morning Post reported on Monday that one preliminary proposal being discussed was for the two leaders to meet on the southern Chinese island of Hainan, around the time of the annual Boao Forum for Asia, which will take place from March 26 to 29. But neither the exact timing nor the venue had been set, a source said.
Other locations under consideration included Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, where the two first met in April 2017, and Beijing, unnamed Trump administration officials told the US news site Axios.
An earlier version of this report quoted Malpass as saying “No” when asked whether the US would extend the March 1 deadline. But the US embassy in Beijing has since denied Malpass made the comment. In a statement, the embassy said: “Undersecretary Malpass did not speak to any reporter about the deadline, did not respond to any questions or make any comment whatsoever.”