Deputy Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish is leading the US delegation in Beijing (WANG Zhao)
Beijing (AFP) – US negotiators on Monday headed into talks with Chinese counterparts as the two countries seek a deal to end a trade war that has raised fears of global economic turmoil.
The visiting delegation, led by Deputy US Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish, left its hotel in Beijing without speaking to reporters.
President Donald Trump raised hopes last week that an agreement could be found to end the months-long dispute, during which the world’s top two economies have imposed import duties on more than $300 billion of each other’s goods.
“I think we will make a deal with China,” Trump said on Friday.
“We have a massive trade negotiation going on with China. President Xi (Jinping) is very much involved, so am I. We’re dealing at the highest levels and we’re doing very well.”
Trump on Sunday headed to the US presidential retreat at Camp David, where he said he would discuss a trade deal with China with senior aides, among other issues.
The American delegation in Beijing includes officials from the Treasury, Commerce, Agriculture and Energy departments.
The talks come a month after Trump and Xi agreed to suspend a planned tariff hike for three months to give negotiators space to reach an agreement and end a dispute that has roiled world markets.
The ratcheting dispute has pummelled confidence in China, sending the stock markets tumbling while the yuan has fallen against the dollar.
In addition to the bruising trade war, China is also grappling with a slowing domestic economy, with growth slowing to 6.5 percent in the third quarter, as a battle against debt has ramped up.
The government has set a growth target of around 6.5 percent for 2018, down from 6.9 percent in 2017.
– No ‘white flag’ –
The manufacturing sectors in both countries have been hit by the trade dispute, with China’s contracting last month for the first time in over two years, according to official data.
But in a sign of how interconnected the two economies are, Apple shares dropped last week after the tech giant reported steeper-than-expected “economic deceleration” in the last quarter in China — one of its largest overseas markets.
The negotiators will discuss “implementing the important consensus” reached by Trump and Xi in December, China’s commerce ministry said last week.
The Beijing talks follow small signs of progress — and the absence of new threats from Trump — while the two sides work to ease trade tensions by March 1.
Trump initiated the hostilities because of complaints over unfair Chinese trade practices — concerns shared by the European Union, Japan and others.
The president has taken heart in China’s faltering economy, repeating that it makes Beijing more likely to strike a deal.
An editorial in the nationalist state-owned tabloid the Global Times on Monday said China would not back down and cave to US demands.
“If Beijing had wanted to raise the white flag, it would have done so already,” it said.
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