China’s vice-premier Liu He ‘likely’ to visit Washington at end of January to continue trade war talks

US officials expect China’s top trade negotiator to visit Washington later this month, signalling that higher-level discussions are likely to follow this week’s talks with mid-level officials in Beijing.

“The current intent is that the vice-premier Liu He will most likely come and visit us later in the month and I would expect the government shutdown would have no impact,” said US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

“We will continue with those meetings just as we sent a delegation to China.”

The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg reported that the talks involving Mnuchin and US trade representative Robert Lighthizer would take place on January 30 and 31.

The US government is in the 20th day of a partial shutdown with President Donald Trump, a Republican, and congressional Democrats feuding over funding and Trump’s desire for a wall on the US-Mexico border.

People familiar with the talks in Beijing said that hopes were mounting that Liu would continue talks with US trade representative Robert Lighthizer and Mnuchin.

Talks at that level are viewed as important for making the key decisions to ease a festering trade war, which has disrupted trade flows for hundreds of billions of dollars worth of goods and roiled global markets.

Trump has demanded better terms of trade with China, with the United States pressing Beijing to address issues that would require structural change such as intellectual property theft, forced technology transfers and other non-tariff barriers.

Trump on Thursday said the United States was having “tremendous success” in its trade negotiations with China.

A spokeswoman for Lighthizer’s office declined to comment.

‘It’s been a good one,’ US delegate says as trade talks end

More than halfway through a 90-day truce in the US-China trade war agreed on December 1 when Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping met on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina, there have been few details provided 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 a Chinese partner, allow more market access for US businesses and reduce other non-tariff barriers to American products.

The timeline is seen as ambitious, but the resumption of face-to-face negotiations has bolstered hopes of a deal.

“We have the two sides back at the table. That’s encouraging,” said Myron Brilliant, the US Chamber of Commerce’s head of international affairs.

China’s commerce ministry said on Thursday, a day after the extended talks in Beijing ended, that additional consultations with the United States were being arranged after this week’s discussions addressed structural issues and helped establish a foundation to resolve US and Chinese concerns.

US pushes ‘structural changes’ in trade talks, emphasises enforcement

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 cyberattacks, and whether China was confident it could reach agreement with the United States, Gao said these issues were “an important part” of the Beijing talks.

“There has been progress in these areas,” he said.

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, said 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.

US-China trade talks in Beijing to continue for third day on Wednesday

“It was a cordial stand-off,” said one person familiar with the discussions. China has said it will not give ground on issues that it perceives as core.

On Wednesday, the US trade representative’s office said officials from the two sides discussed “ways to achieve fairness, reciprocity and balance in trade relations,” and focused on China’s pledge to buy a substantial amount of agricultural, energy, manufactured, and other products and services from the United States.

The US trade agency said the talks also focused on ways to ensure enforcement and verification of Chinese follow-through on any commitments it makes to the United States.

US and Chinese officials made more progress on straightforward issues such as working out the details of Chinese pledges to buy a “substantial amount” of US agricultural, energy and manufactured goods and services, sources said.

Since the Trump-Xi meeting last month, China has resumed purchases of US soybeans after buying had slumped after China imposed a 25 per cent import duty on US shipments of the oilseed on July 6 in response to US tariffs.

China has also cut tariffs on US cars, dialled back on an industrial development plan known as “Made in China 2025” and told its state refiners to buy more US oil.

Earlier this week, China approved five genetically modified crops for import, the first in about 18 months, which could boost its overseas grains purchases and ease US pressure to open its markets to more farm goods.