China Trade Talks End in an Impasse

04 June, 2018, 03:00 | Author: Irene Delgado
  • President Trump and Chinese president Xi Jinping during Trump's visit to China last November. The US has threatened

United States Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross arrived in Beijing on Saturday aiming to secure more Chinese purchases of US goods and energy, days after Washington intensified pressure in its dispute with China and infuriated allies with tariffs on metals.

A USA delegation led by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross held talks with Chinese negotiators in Beijing on Saturday and Sunday.

Trade analysts warned Ross' hand might be weakened by the Trump administration's decision on Thursday to go ahead with tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from Canada, Europe and Mexico.

China had agreed last month in Washington to "significantly increase" its purchases of us goods and services, Reuters reported. While the team may be inching toward technical agreement in that direction, the talks are overshadowed by the unpredictability of US policy in the wake of recent reversals that have seen tariffs placed on metals imports by allies.

"Agreements between China and the United States should be based on the premise of both sides moving in the same direction and not waging a trade war", the Chinese statement said.

"If the United States introduces trade sanctions including raising tariffs, all the economic and trade achievements negotiated by the two parties will be void."

The Chinese news agency Xinhua said the talks between Ross and Liu had made "positive and concrete progress", and had discussed agriculture and energy.

Ross, who was preceded in Beijing last week by more than 50 USA officials, had been expected during the two-day visit to try to secure long-term purchases of US farm and energy commodities to help shrink the USA trade deficit.

The two countries have threatened tit-for-tat tariffs on goods worth up to $150bn each.

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"The Chinese government's attitude of not wanting but also not fearing a trade war has never changed", it said. The U.S. says China's outsized production artificially depresses global metals prices, endangering U.S. national security by undermining its domestic steel industry.

At the meetings last week between lower-level Chinese and US officials, negotiations almost stalled as the two sides failed to reach an agreement on details for increasing Chinese purchases of USA crude oil, soybeans, natural gas, beef, and poultry.

United States leverage against China appears to have been weakened by a sour mood among U.S. allies after Washington imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum from the European Union, Canada and Mexico. China slammed the "flip-flop", vowing to hit back should the USA tariff threat materialize.

China too threatened a tit-for-tat retaliation but blinked in the end with a categorical undertaking to import more goods from the United States, sparking off concerns over the likely trade war between the two countries.

Ross nonetheless journeyed to Beijing Friday to work out details of the vague agreement Mnuchin had earlier cobbled together with the Chinese vice premier.

Tensions temporarily eased on May 19 after China promised to "significantly increase" its purchases of US farm, energy and other products.

Mnuchin had said on Saturday the USA wanted China to agree to structural change to its economy.

At a gathering of G-7 leaders in the Canadian ski town of Whistler on Saturday, finance ministers from six of the world's largest economies asked Mr Mnuchin to convey their "unanimous concern and disappointment" to US President Donald Trump over the latest trade actions, which they said were harmful to the world's economic development.

Trade analysts feared that decision might alienate allies who share complaints about Chinese technology policy and a flood of low-cost steel, aluminum and other exports they say are the result of improper subsidies and hurt foreign competitors.


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