23 March 2019
The items on Beijing's non-negotiable list in trade talks are said to be unacceptable to the United States. Photo: Bloomberg
The items on Beijing's non-negotiable list in trade talks are said to be unacceptable to the United States. Photo: Bloomberg

China offer unlikely to spur trade breakthrough: US official

China’s written response to US demands for trade reforms is unlikely to trigger a breakthrough at talks between Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping later this month, a senior Trump administration official told Reuters on Thursday.

The items on Beijing’s non-negotiable list were unacceptable to the United States, the official said.

Also, the overall list deserves to be looked at with skepticism in part because China has previously made pledges on economic and trade reforms that it had not fulfilled, he said.

As an example, the official cited a past offer by China to loosen restrictions on US ownership of Chinese companies, and said that Beijing had subsequently failed to follow through with licenses for American firms, Reuters reported.

That said, the official believes it is a good sign that Beijing had put something in writing after months of declining to do so.

US officials are said to be still studying the list, which was received on Monday night.

Beijing provided the Trump administration with its document earlier this week, responding to a months-long request from US officials for commitments that would jumpstart trade talks, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

The Chinese document was said to include 142 items divided into three categories: issues the Chinese are willing to negotiate for further action, issues they are already working on and issues they consider off limits.

With the G20 summit only two weeks away, the Reuters source on Thursday played down expectations of a major breakthrough on substantive issues on trade during talks between Trump and Xi at the gathering of world leaders in Argentina at the end of November.

A best-case scenario could be that the two leaders agreed to keep talking and declare the issue is moving in a better direction, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

It is too early to tell whether China’s offer would be sufficient to preclude an increase in US tariffs at the start of 2019, he said.

Trump has imposed tariffs on US$250 billion of Chinese imports to force concessions from Beijing on the list of demands that would change the terms of trade between the two countries. China has responded with import tariffs on American goods.

The tariff rate on US$200 billion in Chinese goods is set to increase to 25 percent from 10 percent on January 1.

Trump has also threatened to impose tariffs on all remaining Chinese imports, about US$267 billion worth, if Beijing fails to address US demands.

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