US, China eye higher-level talks after discussing tech transfer

January 11, 2019 09:32
Vice Premier Liu He, the top Chinese negotiator in the talks, is expected to visit Washington this month to meet with his American counterparts. Photo: AFP

US and Chinese officials are working on arrangements for higher-level trade talks after mid-level officials this week discussed US demands that would require structural changes in China to address issues such as intellectual property theft, forced technology transfers and other non-tariff barriers, Reuters reports. 

People familiar with the three days of talks in Beijing said hopes are mounting that the top Chinese negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He, will visit Washington this month to meet with his negotiating counterparts, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.  

Talks at that level are viewed as important for making the key decisions to reach a deal to ease a festering trade war between the world’s two largest economies, which has roiled financial markets and disrupted trade flows for hundreds of billions of dollars worth of goods.

President Donald Trump said on Thursday the United States was having “tremendous success” in its trade negotiations with China, though concrete details of progress have been scarce

The Beijing negotiations were “a stepping stone” toward higher-level talks, Myron Brilliant, the US Chamber of Commerce business lobbying group’s head of international affairs, told reporters on Thursday. 

“The idea is that Liu He will probably come to Washington. But the date is not set, in my understanding,” said Brilliant, who is in regular contact with Trump administration officials.  

“There is some question about whether it will happen before the Chinese New Year or right after,” Brilliant said, adding that talks before the Feb. 5 Lunar New Year holiday would still allow for a final round of negotiations that will likely be needed before the March 2 deadline.

More than halfway through a 90-day truce in the US-China trade war agreed by Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, there have been few concrete details of any progress made.  

Trump has vowed to increase tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese imports on March 2 if China fails to take steps to protect US intellectual property, end policies that force American companies to turn over technology to Chinese partner, allow more market access for US businesses and reduce other non-tariff barriers to American products. 

China’s commerce ministry said on Thursday additional consultations with the US were being arranged after the Beijing talks addressed structural issues and helped establish a foundation to resolve US and Chinese concerns.

Commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng told reporters the two sides were “serious” and “honest”. 

Asked about China’s stance on issues such as forced technology transfers, intellectual property rights, non-tariff barriers and cyber attacks, and whether China was confident it could reach agreement with the US, Gao said these issues were “an important part” of the Beijing talks.  

“There has been progress in these areas,” he said without elaborating.  

China has repeatedly played down complaints about intellectual property abuses, and has rejected accusations that foreign companies face forced technology transfers. 

Discussions on those issues were an extensive part of the talks, according to people in Washington familiar with the discussions. 

Chinese officials listened “politely” to US grievances, they said, but responded by saying that the Americans had some issues wrong and misunderstood others, but that some other issues could be addressed. 

-- Contact us at [email protected]