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White House says China's economic chief Liu He to visit Washington for trade talks

China's top economic official will visit Washington next week to continue trade talks with Trump administration officials, the White House said on Monday, after two days of talks in Beijing last week failed to produce a breakthrough.

"We are working on something that we think will be great for everybody," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters. "China's top economic adviser, the vice premier (Liu He), will be coming here next week to continue the discussions with the president's economic team. We will keep you posted as the discussions are ongoing," she added.

Sanders did not provide any further details about Liu's visit.

Liu told American business leaders while visiting Washington earlier this year that he would take steps to reform China's economy, according to a person familiar with the situation. Liu said at the time that he had three requests for the Trump administration: Establish a new economic dialogue, name a point person on China issues and hand over a specific list of demands, the person said.

The visit from Liu is a signal that both sides want to move quickly, and came three days after a US delegation led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin left Beijing after two days of talks that produced no apparent consensus, leaving open the possibility that punitive tariffs on US$50 billion worth of imports from China would take effect in the coming weeks.

Analysts said that the opening round of talks served only to communicate each side's position. 

In last week's talks, the US demanded that China cut the trade deficit the US currently faces by at least US$200 billion by the end of 2020. Additionally, the US called on China to halt state subsidies for industries under its "Made in China 2025" plan.

The Chinese government released a brief statement wrapping up the trade talks on Friday, calling the negotiations "candid and efficient". A statement from the White House described the discussions as "frank".

China called on the US to cease its "section 301" investigation into China's trade and industrial policies, and to lift restrictions on high-technology exports to China. That investigation prompted the US Trade Representative office to announce its US$50 billion list of targeted Chinese products, mostly machinery and electronics.

China also called for the US to drop its opposition to it being treated as a market economy in the World Trade Organization, something Beijing has long insisted it became entitled to on the 15th anniversary of its entry into the WTO in 2016.

China has announced tariffs on an equivalent amount of imports from the US.

Reactions about last week's meeting in China's state media had suggested Beijing was open to continuing talks.

A commentary in the ruling Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily on Saturday described the talks by saying the "clouds are starting to part and the fog begins to disperse" after more than a month of "wind and rain".

It said that the talks marked a change from the recent tit-for-tat exchanges between Beijing and Washington and sent a positive signal for the global economy, adding: "There is hope that the two nations will move away from confrontation and towards consultation."

China's Commerce Ministry was studying measures to further lower import tariffs on some food, pharmaceuticals and medical instruments, Economic Information Daily reported on Monday, citing unidentified sources. If enacted, such a move would at least partly address US demands for easier access to China's markets.
 


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