Senior US and Chinese officials would review the implementation of their “phase one” trade deal and likely air mutual grievances in an increasingly tense relationship during a videoconference on Saturday next week, two people familiar with the plans said.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He (劉鶴), the principal negotiators for the two countries, are to participate in the meeting, an initial six-month review of the pact activated on Feb. 15.
The meeting plans were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
The Office of the US Trade Representative and the US Department of the Treasury did not respond to requests for comment.
Under the “phase one” trade deal signed in January, China had pledged to boost purchases of US goods by about US$200 billion over 2017 levels, including agricultural and manufactured products, energy and services.
However, China, battered by the global COVID-19 recession, is far behind the pace needed to meet its first-year goal of a US$77 billion increase.
Imports of farm goods have been lower than the 2017 level, far behind the 50 percent increase needed to meet this year’s target of US$36.5 billion.
Beijing has bought only 5 percent of the energy products needed to meet the first-year goal of US$25.3 billion.
One of the people familiar with the plans said that Chinese officials hoped to discuss other issues beyond the “phase one” trade deal implementation.
“It’s both the normal semi-annual review and also comes at a time when the relationship continues to deteriorate. Naturally there is much to discuss,” the person said.
Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai (崔天凱) on Tuesday said that there was always a plan for high-level consultations six months into the pact, but the two sides have remained in regular contact over the trade deal.
“If they do have such a meeting I guess it will be very positive,” Cui told a virtual event sponsored by the Aspen Security Forum.
US President Donald Trump has threatened to end the trade pact over Beijing’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in Wuhan, China, and tensions have risen over US sanctions related to China’s security crackdown on Hong Kong.
Separately, China would boost wheat imports in the coming year to secure domestic food requirements and is likely to increase purchases from the US to help meet commitments under the “phase one” trade deal.
The world’s largest consumer and producer of wheat is set to buy 6 million tonnes in the 12 months starting in June, up from just more than 4 million tonnes in the previous year, according to the China National Grain and Oils Information Center, the government forecaster.
That would be the highest since 2013-2014.
China, also the top global soybean importer, is already buying hefty amounts of corn and cotton from the US to fill domestic needs and try to satisfy pledges under the trade deal.
In terms of wheat, the Asian country is boosting purchases from France and Lithuania, while Russia and Kazakhstan are willing to sell more, the center said.
The US Department of Agriculture also estimates wheat imports at 6 million tonnes in the coming year.
China has been under pressure to fulfill its annual grain import quotas, which include corn and rice, under WTO commitments.
The country lost a dispute last year brought by the US, which argued the quotas were not fully utilized.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg
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