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Trump to talk trade with Vice-Premier Liu

By ZHAO HUANXIN in Washington | China Daily | Updated: 2019-01-29 23:19
Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He. [Photo/IC]

Optimism on solving issues as Chinese team is headed to Washington

US President Donald Trump will meet with China's lead trade negotiator Liu He on Thursday at the close of the Chinese vice-premier's two-day visit to Washington, during which his delegation will hold talks with Trump's top aides, the White House announced on Monday.

Leading US officials and analysts have expressed either guarded or cautious optimism about the talks, which are a continuation of trade meetings held in Beijing Jan 7-9.

"Today, President Donald J. Trump announced that the United States will welcome an official delegation from China for a series of meetings from January 30 to 31, 2019, to discuss the trade relationship between the two countries," the White House press secretary said in a statement.

For the US side, the trade discussions will be led by Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and include Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy Larry Kudlow, and Assistant to the President for Trade and Manufacturing Policy Peter Navarro, according to the statement.

Both White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders and Mnuchin confirmed that Trump will meet Liu at the end of the talks.

"I think we've had very productive conversations going back between the meeting between the two presidents, which was a very important time," Mnuchin said at a news conference at the White House. "Ambassador Lighthizer and I are looking forward to the two days of talks."

Beijing and Washington have agreed to suspend any increase in tariffs after a meeting between President Xi Jinping and Trump on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Dec 1.

Days after the Argentina meeting, China's Ministry of Commerce had said that in 90 days, economic and trade teams of both sides would "actively push forward" the consultation following a clear schedule and road map.

Asked how much progress has been made in the last month, Mnuchin said, "I think there's been significant movement, and we're working through what are still very complicated issues."

Commenting on the likelihood of the framework of a deal following the talks this week, Kudlow stopped short of a specific answer.

"How these things are worked out, we'll have to wait and see," he said. "The president has expressed some, I would say, 'guarded optimism' about the talks. Liu He is coming with his top people, and that's very important. And our top people will be negotiating."

Douglas H. Paal, vice-president of the Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the fact that the US president made a welcoming announcement to the Chinese delegation two days before the start of talks indicates Trump would like markets to think he is "competently handling" the trade dispute.

J. Stapleton Roy, former US ambassador to China, said whatever agreement is reached, it certainly should not result in any increase in tariffs and hopefully result in substantial reduction or removal of tariffs.

Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow and trade expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, said Trump wants the talks to succeed.

"He needs a political victory for his 'tough on trade' policies, and he wants to avoid the financial fallout from failed talks," Hufbauer told China Daily.

Hufbauer also said the two lead negotiators from China and the US will frame possible compromises and remaining issues, while the presidents will make the final decisions.

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