China hopeful on US trade talks: official

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AFP

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1552114579980203500

Sat, 2019-03-09 06:50

BEIJING: Beijing is hopeful about its next round of trade talks
with the US, China’s vice minister for commerce said Saturday,
after revealing that top negotiators had tried to hammer out a deal
over burgers and eggplant chicken.
China and the United States have been locked in a bruising trade
war since last year, imposing tit-for-tat tariffs on more than $360
billion in two-way trade, which has left global markets
reeling.
Top-level negotiators have met thrice in an attempt to reach an
agreement ahead of next week, when additional tariffs could be
levied on Chinese goods entering the US as a truce period
expires.
“When you ask about the prospects for the next Sino-US economic
and trade consultation, I feel that there is hope,” Vice Minister
for Commerce Wang Shouwen told journalists at a press briefing on
the sidelines of China’s National People’s Congress.
He added that Beijing’s top economic official Liu He and US Trade
Representative Robert Lighthizer held talks over a packed lunch of
burgers and eggplant stir-fried with chicken — a common Chinese
dish — in Washington last month.
“Vice Premier Liu ate a beef burger, and Lighthizer ate eggplant
and chicken (with rice),” Wang said.
“Throughout the consultation process, there was coffee and tea…
but both drank plain water.”
“This was to find common ground,” he added.
Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan had on Tuesday said the
negotiation process was very “difficult and taxing” with
“lots left to do,” but that breakthroughs had been made in
several areas.
But there have been conflicting comments from Washington and
Beijing on the negotiations.
Donald Trump on Friday said he remains optimistic but will not sign
a pact unless it is a “very good deal,” and a top economic
adviser said the US president could walk away from a bad deal.
Commerce officials also said a foreign investment law — widely
expected to be passed by China’s rubber-stamp parliament next
Friday — will allow foreign companies to take part in government
tenders.
Only 48 sectors remain on a “negative list” where foreign
investment is either prohibited or requires special approval, Wang
told journalists.
“The (whole process) is open and provides important legal
protection for foreign investors.”
Aimed at assuaging concerns about China’s business environment
for foreign firms, Beijing sees the law as a tool to attract more
foreign investment as its economy slows.
The bill will ban the illegal transfer of technology and “illegal
government interference” in foreign businesses, a key complaint
from Washington.

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