US, Chinese officials resume trade talks as North Korea’s Kim travels to Beijing

AFP, BEIJING

Wed, Jan 09, 2019 - Page 1

US and Chinese officials yesterday in Beijing held a second day of trade talks overshadowed by an unannounced visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

It was the first time US and Chinese officials have met face-to-face since US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) agreed to a tariff truce in Argentina on Dec. 1.

The US delegation — led by Deputy US Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish and including officials from the US departments of treasury, commerce, agriculture and energy — left its hotel without speaking to reporters ahead of the talks.

Negotiators were seeking to resolve a number of thorny issues that have threatened an all-out trade war between the world’s two biggest economies.

These include more Chinese purchases of US goods and services to reduce a yawning trade gap, increased access to China’s markets, stronger protection of intellectual property and a reduction in Beijing’s subsidies.

Neither side have provided any details about the talks, which were later reportedly extended into the evening.

The temporary ceasefire came after the two sides imposed import duties on more than US$300 billion of each other’s goods.

US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on Monday said that China’s economy is more vulnerable to the fallout from the trade dispute.

“It certainly has hurt the Chinese economy,” Ross told CNBC, adding that China exports many more goods to the US than the other way around.

There was a “very good chance” of reaching an agreement, although monitoring compliance would present a challenge, Ross said.

Without a resolution, punitive US duty rates on US$200 billion of Chinese goods are due to rise from 10 percent to 25 percent on March 2.

The second day of trade negotiations coincided with an unannounced visit to Beijing by Kim for talks with Xi, amid speculation of a second meeting between Kim and Trump.

Some analysts have said that China — Pyongyang’s key diplomatic ally and main source of trade — could use Kim’s visit as a bargaining chip in the US trade talks.

However, Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies senior adviser Bonnie Glaser said that the timing of the North Korean leader’s arrival could be coincidental.

“I don’t see any linkage with the trade talks,” Glaser said. “China’s ability to use [North Korea] as leverage has diminished considerably since Trump opened his own channel to Kim.”

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang (陸慷) said that Kim’s visit and the trade talks were “two separate matters.”

“China’s position in the China-US trade friction and its solutions to the friction is open, it’s transparent,” Lu told a regular media briefing.

“We have shown our sincerity, we have established our stand in this, so we don’t need other actions to gain the confidence of the US,” he said. “The US is very clear about China’s stance.”