Big week in tackling China-US trade war

Top News | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 11 Feb 2019

With a March 1 deadline looming Chinese and American officials resume negotiations this week to tackle a trade dispute with major implications for the global economy.

China's economy has shown signs of slowing, while the trade war has shaken the confidence of US businesses as retaliatory tariffs raise prices and choke a key export market.

And US President Donald Trump's aggressive strategy has failed to produce a reduction in the trade deficit with China - a primary goal.

Under the threat of a surge in tariffs when a 90-day truce expires, financial markets have lost ground in recent days as comments about the status of the talks turned more cautious.

United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin lead the US delegation for the third round of talks on Thursday and Friday in Beijing.

While officials seemed optimistic after talks last week in Washington, more recent comments have jarred markets, amplifying concerns about how the dispute will affect world growth.

Trump said he did not expect to meet President Xi Jinping before a March 1 deadline for a deal. And the final resolution of the trade dispute, he also said, depended on meeting with Xi "in the near future."

White House economist Larry Kudlow followed up by saying that while Trump is "optimistic" about prospects for a deal there was "a sizable distance" between the sides.

While China has offered to buy more US soybeans and beef, officials have yet to agree on a draft of a deal to address key US concerns. Washington is demanding big changes from Beijing to address issues including theft of American intellectual property and the huge Chinese trade surplus.

The dispute has escalated to encompass US$360 billion (HK$2.8 trillion) in trade between them, and without an agreement by the start of March the Trump administration is poised to more than double punitive duties on US$200 billion-worth of Chinese goods.

But CNBC cited a senior US administration official as saying the March 1 deadline could be pushed back amid pressure from big US business.

The White House said there would be a preparatory meeting of senior officials beginning today. And among them will Beijing-wary David Malpass, who Trump has nominated to be president of the World Bank.

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