Published: Sun, March 31, 2019
Markets | By Otis Pena

US, Chinese negotiators wrap up ‘constructive’ trade talks

US, Chinese negotiators wrap up ‘constructive’ trade talks

The United States said Friday that its trade negotiators are making "great headway" with Beijing in talks aimed at ending a bruising tariffs battle between the two economic superpowers.

It was reported that the US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer were present for the face-to-face meetings between the two sides in Beijing.

US President Donald Trump has said the two sides were close to a deal, but officials have played down expectations of an imminent agreement.

As the USA delegation left its hotel for a full day of talks, Mnuchin told reporters the officials had a "very productive" working dinner on Thursday.

China's stock markets soared on Friday, as investors were lifted by the strong performance of the liquor makers and other consumer shares as well as the resumed Sino-US trade talks. Speaking Friday afternoon on CNBC Television, White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the two sides made "good headway" and USA negotiators were probably on their flight back to Washington.

He was also asked if the release of the Mueller report was having an effect on the ongoing talks.

In a tweet, Mnuchin called the talks "constructive" and confirmed Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is due in Washington next week.

It has resulted in both sides imposing heavy punitive tariffs on each other's exports.

As China nears agreement with the US, officials are keen to maintain an appearance of equality between the two sides, hence the focus on matching visits to Beijing and Washington, the people said.

Though his blunt-force use of tariffs has angered many, Trump's push to change what are widely viewed as China's market-distorting trade and subsidy practices has drawn broad support.

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Pillsbury said Kudlow's remarks implied to Chinese hawks that the USA delegation had "bullied" Chinese trade negotiators and brought indignity to Liu.

However, Trump postponed another tariff hike March 1, in a move that may have reduced US leverage in seeking Chinese concessions.

The two sides have been locked in high level negotiations or more specific topics including forced technology transfer and cyber theft, intellectual property rights, services, currency, agriculture and non-tariff barriers to trade.

"Both teams are now sparing no effort" on the negotiations, Chinese commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng said during a regularly scheduled briefing on Thursday.

One person with knowledge of the talks said "translation is definitely an issue", referring to discrepancies between the Chinese and English-language versions. "I mean, things are going very well", he said.

"Whatever implementation mechanism China agrees to, whether it is monthly or quarterly meetings or other check-ins, there are going to be problems", James Green, a senior advisor at McLarty Associates who until August was the top USTR official at the embassy in Beijing, told Reuters.

Officials are seeking to iron out major differences over U.S. accusations that China has been using unfair trade practices for years by heavily subsidizing its companies while snatching the technological know-how of American firms.

The U.S. government says technology is often subsequently transferred to, and used by, Chinese competitors.

China states it has no development transfer requirements protected in its laws and any such exchanges are a result of real arrangements.

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