New trade talks just a call away

Top News | AGENCIES 17 Jul 2019

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says he and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer may travel to Beijing for trade negotiations if talks by phone this week are productive.

"We expect to have another principal-level call this week, and to the extent we make significant progress, I think there's a good chance we'll go there later," Mnuchin said. He and Lighthizer had a phone conversation last week with Vice Premier Liu He and Commerce Minister Zhong Shan.

The planned phone call would be the second time the top trade negotiators have spoken since President Xi Jinping and US counterpart Donald Trump called a truce in their year-long trade war during the G-20 meeting at the end of last month.

The leaders agreed to restart talks for a trade deal - which had collapsed in May - but they gave no concrete time-frame to reach a deal.

Beijing yesterday rebuffed a suggestion from Trump that it needs a trade deal with the United States because its economy is slowing, saying this is "totally misleading" and that both countries want an agreement.

Trump, in a tweet, seized on slowing economic growth in China as evidence that US tariffs were having "a major effect" and warned that Washington could pile on more pressure.

"This is why China wants to make a deal with the US, and wishes it had not broken the original deal in the first place," Trump tweeted.

Official data on Monday showed China's economic growth cooled to 6.2 percent in the second quarter, the weakest annual pace in at least 27 years, amid trade pressure from the United States.

In the first half, the economy grew 6.3 percent compared with a year earlier.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China's first-half pace was "not a bad performance" considering global economic uncertainty and slowing world growth, and in line with outside expectations.

"I again call on the US side to work hard with China, meet each other halfway, and on the basis of mutual respect and treatment, strive to reach a mutually beneficial, win-win agreement," Geng said. "This accords with the interests of both countries and is what the international community expects."

Trump continues to insist incorrectly that tariffs are paid by China rather than by US companies and consumers, and again accused Beijing of devaluing its currency to make its products cheaper even with the tariffs.

Elsewhere, China's Huawei Technologies said it would invest US$3.1 billion (HK$24.18 billion) in Italy over the next three years. The chief executive of the telecoms giant's Italian unit, Thomas Miao, also confirmed it would cut 1,000 jobs in the United States.

Canada is likely to postpone a decision on whether to allow Huawei to supply 5G network equipment until after the October federal election, given increasingly strained relations with Beijing.

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