U.S. officials arrive in China for trade talks as deadline looms

Clay Curtis
February 13, 2019

United States president Donald Trump said last week he did not plan to meet with Xi before the March 1 deadline, dampening hopes that a trade pact could be reached quickly.

"If we're close to a deal where we think we can make a real deal and it's going to get done, I could see myself letting that slide for a little while", Trump said to reporters during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

China and the United States have repeatedly traded barbs in the past over what Washington says is Beijing's militarisation of the South China Sea by building military installations on artificial islands and reefs.

US negotiators are now in China for a week of talks ahead of the deadline at which point the USA would ramp up to 25 percent its tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports. After that date, U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports are scheduled to increase to 25 percent from 10 percent.

She said Trump knows his trade policies and tariffs are working as the March 1 deadline for a new trade deal between Washington and Beijing approaches.

During an interview Monday, White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway said the president wants to meet with President Xi very soon.

While China has offered to buy more U.S. soybeans and beef, officials have yet even to agree on a draft of a deal that would address key U.S. concerns, according to media reports.

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"China has always respected and safeguarded freedom of navigation and flight based on global laws in the South China Sea, but resolutely opposes any country falsely using these harm the sovereignty and security of coastal countries", Hua said Monday. USA officials are pressing China to stop stealing intellectual property from American companies and commit to deeper reforms to a state-driven economic model that they say hurts US competitors.

The last round of talks in Washington late last month resulted in China importing American soybeans as it implemented promises to buy more US goods.

During that operation, a Chinese destroyer came within 45 yards of the United States warship, forcing it to maneuver to avoid a collision. It has fast-tracked approval of a law that would ban theft of intellectual property and forced technology transfers, but the question is how much more it can compromise.

Monday's operation was the second in the South China Sea reported by the US Navy this year.

Erin Ennis, senior vice president of the U.S.

"The key is whether the USA and China can find common ground", said He Weiwen, a former commerce ministry official and now a senior fellow at the Center for China and Globalization, an independent research group.

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