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Trump praises China's Xi Jingping as trade talks begin in Beijing

04 May 2018

It's normal for the USA and China to have differences on trade, the state-run China Daily newspaper said in an editorial Friday. "We're going to spend the next year developing how we deal with each other", he said on Tuesday in Washington.

It's as well that the latest USA global trade statistics show that America's external account is improving and this could help temper tensions between the opposing sides.

Washington is due to finalise its list of Chinese imports - worth US$50 billion - that will be subject to 25 per cent punitive tariffs later this month, and it could slap sanctions on another US$100 billion of products from China.

Despite the huge US trade deficit, Chinese companies are struggling to overtake western industry leaders in advanced technologies for semiconductors, the silicon brains required to run smartphones, connected cars, cloud computing and artificial intelligence.

Although Trump has railed against the US trade deficit with China, and threatened to impose tariffs on a further $100 billion in Chinese goods, the dispute reflects Washington's growing impatience over China's industrial policies and market access restrictions.

As Mnuchin arrived, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted: "Our great financial team is in China trying to negotiate a level playing field on trade!"

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We must protect American workers from China's economic attacks and be willing to impose costs if Beijing refuses to restore balance to our trade relations.

Under president Xi, a program known as "Made in China 2025" aims to make the country a tech superpower by advancing development of industries that include semiconductors, artificial intelligence, pharmaceuticals and electric vehicles.

At this point, not many expect a substantial breakthrough in the negotiations given its limited 2-day schedule and of course, the bull-headed stance of the parties involved.

The US government has also been pressing China to move away from an industrial policy that critics say subsidizes Chinese companies on the global stage and pressures foreign rivals to hand over key technologies.

Washington pointed to weak IP protection in Chinese courts run by the ruling Communist Party, which has set explicit requirements for replacing foreign technology with home-grown alternatives.

The two-day talks are being led by Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, whose delegation of seven officials includes Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

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China, for its part, increasingly sees itself as operating from a position of economic strength under President Xi Jinping. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AmCham China are hosting the event.

U.S. President Donald Trump has complained about this issue.

A USA trade delegation arrived in China on Thursday for talks on tariffs, with state media saying China will stand up to US bullying if need be, but it was better to work things out at the negotiating table.

But the rival views in Washington, reflected in the makeup of the USA team, could undermine the US negotiating stance, the consulting firm Eurasia Group said in a research note.

Although it is hard to predict how the meetings will turn out, Liao Qun, chief economist at China CITIC Bank International, says it is a positive sign that both sides have a desire to sit down and negotiate.

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Trump praises China's Xi Jingping as trade talks begin in Beijing