Cautious hopes about US-China talks


US trade negotiators return to China this week for a fresh round of talks in a new city, but experts warn a change of air is unlikely to quickly solve an impasse between the world’s two biggest economies. The meetings in Shanghai on today and tomorrow will be the first face-to-face discussions since negotiations collapsed in May after President Donald Trump accused China of reneging on its commitments.
Washington and Beijing have so far hit each other with punitive tariffs covering more than $360 billion in two-way trade in the tense standoff. Despite an agreement by Trump and President Xi Jinping at the G20 in Japan to cease hostilities, there has been little progress since and the US leader has irritated the Chinese side by claiming the slowing economy is forcing them to make a trade deal.

The dispute has centered on US demands for China to curb the alleged theft of American technology and provide a level playing field to US companies in the Asian country. Trump has also angered China by blacklisting telecom giant Huawei over national security concerns.

Meanwhile, China has slammed the Trump administration’s demand that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) change within 90 days the way developing countries are designated, saying the unilateral move has shown the self-serving nature of the US. In a memo addressed to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, President Donald Trump called on the WTO to change how rich countries can enjoy certain benefits by declaring themselves as developing countries.

The US leader directed Mr Lighthizer to stop treating such countries as developing countries for the purposes of the WTO, if he deemed that they had not made substantial progress towards reform within 90 days. Trump listed a number of wealthy economies, including Singapore and South Korea, for taking unfair advantage of such rules, although the memo focused largely on criticising China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing on Monday (July 29) that most WTO members agreed that special and differential treatments are core values and basic principles at the heart of the trade body, and that the standards that must be met to qualify cannot be dictated by any one country. The US side’s statements on the status of developing countries in the WTO has exposed its willfulness, arrogance and selfishness, said Hua.

Moreover, The US has shipped several million tons of soybeans to China since the two countries’ leaders met in June, Chinese state media said on Sunday, an apparent sign of goodwill before trade talks in Shanghai this week. The US-China trade war has curbed the export of US crops to China, with soybean sales falling sharply after Beijing slapped tariffs of 25 percent on American cargoes.

China has made enquiries to US suppliers for the purchase of soybeans, cotton and other agricultural products since July 19, and some sales have been made, state broadcaster CCTV said, citing China’s National Development and Reform Commission and Ministry of Commerce.
As long as the American agricultural products are reasonably priced and of good quality, it is expected that there will be new purchases, the report said.
Companies involved in the sales have applied for exclusions to tariffs on agricultural goods with Chinese customs officials, it said. It added that the moves show China’s willingness to promote US products and make good on a consensus reached between presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Osaka in June. Chinese and US negotiators are set to meet in Shanghai this week for the first time since the summit, with talks to start on July 30.

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