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Beijing, Washington set for trade talks

By ZHOU JIN, ZHONG NAN, JING SHUIYU | China Daily | Updated: 2019-02-20 04:56
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Negotiations will help relax tensions, reassure global economy, experts say

Vice-Premier Liu He will head to Washington for the seventh round of high-level economic and trade talks from Thursday to Friday at the invitation of the United States, the Ministry of Commerce announced on Tuesday.

Economists said the upcoming round of talks is the latest attempt to relax trade tensions ahead of a March 1 tariff truce deadline despite "remaining differences", and closer contacts to advance common ground are not only a positive sign to companies from both countries, but meaningful in terms of global economic growth.

Liu, who is President Xi Jinping's special envoy and chief of the Chinese delegation in the China-US comprehensive economic dialogue, will meet US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Tuesday that it is the right choice for China and the US to respect each other and enhance cooperation, which is also the common expectation of the international community.

Wang made the remark when meeting in Beijing with a delegation led by Myron Brilliant, executive vice-president and head of international affairs at the US Chamber of Commerce.

Liang Ming, a senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said, "Even though China and the US have reached more consensuses and narrowed differences during recent consultations, certain issues still remain."

China and the US had in-depth communication on topics of mutual concern, including technology transfers, intellectual property rights protection, nontariff barriers, the service sector, agriculture, the trade balance and an implementation mechanism in Beijing last week.

The two sides said they will step up their work within the time limit for consultations set by both heads of state, and strive for consensus.

"It does not seem realistic that all trade disputes between the world's two largest economies can be resolved merely through several negotiations," he said, adding that the two nations still have differences on some structural issues.

Liang urged both sides to better align their interests and promote the healthy development of Sino-US economic and trade relations through consultations.

Despite remaining differences, the fact that China and the US are in closer contact to advance trade talks is an encouraging sign, said Zhu Min, chair of the National Institute of Financial Research at Tsinghua University.

Affected by the rise of trade protectionism and weak market demand, global foreign direct investment fell by nearly a fifth in 2018 to an estimated $1.2 trillion from $1.47 trillion in 2017, according to the latest Global Investment Trends Monitor report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, released in late January.

With regard to some disagreements on structural issues, such as intellectual property protections and nontariff barriers, they can be gradually resolved as China continues to deepen reform and pursue high-quality development, rather than as a result of the country's momentary response to external pressure, Lee Minsoo, head of the Asian Development Bank's economics unit in China, told China Central Television.

A long-term perspective is needed to evaluate how trade tensions can eventually affect China as well as how the country can see the challenge as an opportunity, because in the long run, trade tensions can further drive China's opening-up and supply-side structural reform, Lee said.

Chinese stocks have seen steady rises in recent trading days, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index gaining 6 percent since the start of last week, widely believed to have been buoyed, in part, by hopes that Sino-US trade talks were making progress.

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