U.S., Chinese trade deputies face off in Washington amid deep differences
20 September, 2019, 8:08 pm
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. and Chinese deputy trade negotiators resumed face-to-face talks for the first time in nearly two months on Thursday, as the world’s two largest economies try to bridge deep policy differences and find a way out of their protracted trade war.
The negotiations, which will extend into Friday, are aimed at laying the groundwork for high-level talks in early October that will determine whether the two countries are working toward a solution or headed for new and higher tariffs on each other’s goods.
A delegation of about 30 Chinese officials, led by Vice Finance Minister Liao Min, met counterparts at the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) office near the White House. Deputy USTR Jeffrey Gerrish led the U.S. delegation.
The discussions are seen focusing heavily on agriculture, including U.S. demands that China substantially increase purchases of American soybeans and other farm commodities, a person with knowledge of the planned discussions told Reuters.
Two negotiating sessions over the two days will cover agricultural issues, while just one will be devoted to the strengthening of China’s intellectual property protections and the forced transfer of U.S. technology to Chinese firms.
“Sessions on agriculture will get a disproportionate amount of air time,” the source said, adding that one of these sessions also will include a focus on U.S. President Donald Trump’s demand that China cut off shipments of the synthetic opioid fentanyl to the United States.
The president is eager to provide export opportunities for U.S. farmers, a key Trump political constituency that has been battered by China’s retaliatory tariffs on U.S. soybeans and other agricultural commodities.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, in an interview on Fox Business Network on Thursday, said it remained unclear what China wanted and that “we will find out very, very shortly in the next couple of weeks.”
“What we need is to correct the big imbalances, not just the current trade deficit,” Ross said. “It’s more complicated than just buying a few more soybeans.”
In an unexpected twist, some members of the Chinese delegation will stay in the United States to visit U.S. farming regions next week, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told reporters.
“They want to see the production of agriculture. I think they want to build goodwill,” Perdue said.
CNBC earlier reported that the group will visit Bozeman, Montana, and Omaha, Nebraska.
A USTR spokesman did not immediately respond to queries.