19 January 2020
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said there is no magic way to reach what has so far been an elusive deal. Photo: Bloomberg
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said there is no magic way to reach what has so far been an elusive deal. Photo: Bloomberg

US, Chinese negotiators hold ‘constructive’ phone talks on trade

US and Chinese trade officials held a “constructive” phone conversation on Tuesday, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said, marking a new round of talks after the world’s two largest economies agreed to a truce in a year-long trade war.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and Minister Zhong Shan on Tuesday in a further effort to resolve outstanding trade disputes between the countries, Reuters reports, citing an emailed statement from a US official.

On Wednesday, China’s Ministry of Commerce confirmed in a statement that Vice Premier Liu conducted a phone call with US trade officials.

Liu spoke with Lighthizer and Mnuchin on Tuesday evening, the statement said.

The officials exchanged views on implementing an agreement reached between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump at their meeting in Osaka in late June, the statement said.

Kudlow said the talks “went well” and were constructive. He said the two sides were talking about a face-to-face meeting, but warned that there was not a magic way to reach what has so far been an elusive deal.

“There are no miracles here,” Kudlow told reporters at the White House. “There was headway last winter and spring, then it stopped. Hopefully, we can pick up where we left off, but I don’t know that yet.”

Trade talks stalled in May after China backed away from commitments it had made to secure legal changes to its system, according to US officials.

Kudlow’s comments suggested it was still unclear whether the two sides would resume work from the draft text agreed before that pull-back, as US officials want, or whether they will use a different starting point.

A face-to-face meeting between the two negotiating teams would be a good thing and could take place in Beijing, Kudlow said, but no details were available yet.

“Both sides will continue these talks as appropriate,” the separate US official said in an email, declining to provide details on what was discussed and the next steps for talks.

The negotiations picked up after a two-month hiatus, but a year since a tit-for-tat tariff battle began between the two countries. Washington wants Beijing to address what US officials see as decades of unfair and illegal trading practices.

The United States and China agreed during a Group of 20 nations summit in Japan last month to resume discussions, easing fears of an escalation.

After meeting with the Chinese leader at the G20, Trump agreed to suspend a new round of tariffs on US$300 billion worth of imported Chinese consumer goods while the two sides resumed negotiations.

The White House said on Tuesday the administration will exempt 110 Chinese products, from medical equipment to key capacitors, from hefty tariffs.

The relatively narrow exemption list will provide relief from 25 percent tariffs the US slapped on US$34 billion of Chinese imports on July 6, 2018.

The retroactive exclusions are effective as of that date, and extend for a year from Tuesday.

The waivers by the US Trade Representative’s office follow another 1,000 exemptions granted in the past year.

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