China, US set for new talks amid tariff uncertainty

By Li Xuanmin and Ma Jingjing Source:Global Times Published: 2019/10/8 22:08:40

Nation sends one of largest delegations to Washington

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He shakes hands with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer before a photo session after a round of trade talks in Shanghai on July 31. Photo: VCG

Vice Premier Liu He will lead a Chinese delegation of senior officials from various ministries, including the nation's top economic planner, agricultural ministry and communications department, to Washington for a new round of high-level trade consultations at the invitation of the US side. 

Observers said that the composition of the Chinese delegation, one of the largest and broadest teams among the 13 rounds of trade talks, signaled that China is sincerely looking to reach a comprehensive trade deal with the US. Although it is not sure whether the US will hike tariffs on Chinese imports, which it is scheduled to do on October 15, some headway could be made this time concerning industrial policies and intellectual property rights (IPR) protection, they predicted.

Liu, also a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chief of the Chinese side of the China-US comprehensive economic dialogue, will hold economic and trade consultations with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin from Thursday to Friday, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

This will be the 13th round of China-US trade negotiation after months of stalemate amid an escalation of the trade row between the world's two largest economies. In September, the two sides held deputy-level talks and had constructive discussions on trade and economic issues of mutual concern. 

The visit comes several days ahead of October 15, when the US is due to levy additional tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods. 

Along with Liu, other key members of the Chinese delegation include Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan, Governor of the People's Bank of China Yi Gang, and Vice Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) Ning Jizhe. Senior officials from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) as well as the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs will also go on the trip.

"A number of Chinese senior officials will sit at the trade table with the US this time. It demonstrates two things: China is showing a high level of sincerity to the US. And, China has certain expectations of the US," Gao Lingyun, an expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

"Judging from progress made in previous deputy-level talks, the US has shown goodwill gestures that make the Chinese side think it's worth it to send a larger team," Gao explained. 

As the NDRC and MIIT have a say on China's industrial policies, industry insiders forecast that the agenda could focus on IPR and supposed industrial subsidies. "Purchases of more US agricultural products may also be discussed as China's bargaining chip," Gao predicted.

As such, China and the US will head toward a comprehensive settlement rather than a partial one, Huo Jianguo, vice chairman of the China Society for World Trade Organization Studies, told the Global Times. 

The US has sent mixed signs ahead of the scheduled talks. 

While exempting certain Chinese goods from the tariffs that US President Donald Trump announced in September, Washington said on Monday that it has blacklisted 28 Chinese organizations over alleged human rights violations. 

Gao noted that the US blacklisting is a common trick of "maximum pressure" the US has played ahead of trade talks. "It adds to the uncertainty, but Beijing has become accustomed to such tricks and will deal with them calmly." 

In contrast, the US is eager to score on negotiations with China, after a slew of weak economic data fueled fears of a recession and a new round of trade conflicts with Europe, observers said. 


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