The US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer (left) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (center) will continue discussions with Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He (right). Photo: AP

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – The top trade negotiators for United States (US) and Chinese have agreed to resume discussions to resolve their trade dispute, ahead of a meeting between Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Japan later this week, the brief statement by China’ state media, Xinhua, on Tuesday (06/25).

Vice-Premier Liu He, who leads the trade negotiations for the Chinese side, spoke in a phone conversation to his US counterparts, Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday at the request of the US side, the statement said.

“The two sides exchanged opinions on economic and trade issues in line with the instructions made by the two heads of state. The two sides agreed to continue to maintain contact,” it said.

This week’s G-20 meeting in Osaka, Japan is the first opportunity Trump and Xi have had to thrash out the trade dispute face-to-face since Washington announced they were preparing to target the US$300 billion in Chinese imports that they haven’t already hit with tariffs, extending them to everything China ships to the US.

The business community expects that Xi and Trump could announce a truce on new tariffs and specify details for resuming trade talks.

Trump has already imposed 25 percent tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese imports and China has retaliated with tariffs on US goods.

The two sides are in a stalemate after 11 rounds of talks that have failed to overcome US concerns over China’s acquisition of American technology and its massive trade surplus.

China denies forcing US companies to hand over trade secrets and says the surplus is much smaller than it appears once the trade in services and the value extracted by US companies are taken into account.

Stepping up the pressure on Beijing, the US Commerce Department has effectively barred US companies from selling or transferring technology to Huawei Technologies, the world’s biggest maker of network gear, second’ smartphone manufacturer and a champion of Chinese industry.

Washington claims Huawei poses a national security threat because it may be beholden to China’s ruling Communist Party. However, American officials have presented no evidence of any Huawei equipment serving as intentional conduits for espionage by Beijing.

Huawei’s placement on the White House government’s Entity List is widely seen as intended to persuade resistant US allies in Europe to exclude Huawei equipment from their next-generation wireless networks, known as 5G.

Beijing has responded to Washington pressure by saying it would issue a list of unreliable entities targeting companies that violated market principles and cut supplies of components to Chinese businesses for non-commercial reasons.

Beijing has also suggested it might limit exports of rare earth, minerals such as lithium that are used in many products including cellphones, electric vehicles and the batteries that run them.

Vice-minister of commerce Wang Shouwen, another key member of China’s trade negotiation team, told media on Monday that both countries would need to compromise if they were to reach a trade deal.

Wang repeated that both sides should negotiate on the basis of equality, respect each other’s sovereignty and World Trade Organisation rules, and benefit both sides.

Observers warned that even though a truce in the trade war might be within reach, the two countries’ confrontation over technology would continue to intensify.

On Friday, the US added five Chinese supercomputer technology firms to its export control entity list, following its ban on US firms supplying Chinese telecoms equipment maker Huawei.

Written by Lexy Nantu, Email: lexy@theinsiderstories.com

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