15 December 2019
Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump will meet again during the Group of 20 leaders' summit in Osaka on Saturday. Photo: Reuters
Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump will meet again during the Group of 20 leaders' summit in Osaka on Saturday. Photo: Reuters

US hopes to relaunch trade talks, won’t accept tariff conditions

The United States hopes to re-launch trade talks with China after President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping meet in Japan on Saturday but Washington will not accept any conditions on tariffs, Reuters reports, citing a senior administration official.

The two sides could agree not to impose new tariffs as a goodwill gesture to get negotiations going, the official said, but it was unclear if that would happen.

The United States was not willing to come to the Xi meeting with concessions, the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said on Tuesday.

The remarks set up what could prove to be a tricky meeting between Trump and Xi, who will sit down together at the Group of 20 summit meeting in Osaka, the first time they have done so since trade talks between the world’s two largest economies broke down in May.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, who has led trade talks for Beijing, spoke on the phone with his counterparts, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday, according to China’s Ministry of Commerce. The three men are helping to pave the way for talks between the leaders later this week.

Expectations for that meeting so far appear to be low, with the best-case scenario a resumption of official talks that could ease fears in financial markets that the already long trade dispute would continue indefinitely.

China said on Monday that both sides should make compromises in the trade talks and that a trade deal has to be beneficial for both countries.

Trump advisers have said no broad trade deal is expected to be made at the meeting but they hope to create a path forward for talks. Once negotiations resume, they could take months or even years to complete, the senior Trump administration official said.

Washington has imposed 25 percent tariffs on US$250 billion of Chinese goods, ranging from semiconductors to furniture, that are imported to the US, as part of the trade war.

Trump has threatened to put tariffs on US$325 billion more of goods, covering nearly all the remaining Chinese imports into the US, including consumer products such as cellphones, computers and clothing.

A resumption of negotiations could put that threat on hold, at least for now. But neither side has shown a great appetite for changing positions, despite a willingness to meet.

“I think if they go with the tariffs, the trade talks are dead. Period,” said one person familiar with the talks.

The US has made clear it wants China to go back to the position it held in a draft trade agreement that was nearly completed before Beijing balked at some of its terms, particularly requirements to change its laws on some issues.

Beijing wants the US to lift tariffs, while Washington wants China to change a series of practices including on intellectual property and requirements that US companies share their technology with Chinese companies in order to do business there.

Meanwhile, US parcel delivery firm FedEx Corp on Monday sued the US government, saying it should not be held liable if it inadvertently shipped products that violated a Trump administration ban on exports to some Chinese companies.

FedEx reignited Chinese ire over its business practices when a package containing a Huawei phone sent to the US was returned last week to its sender in Britain, in what FedEx said was an “operational error”.

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