New round of China-US trade talks starts in Beijing

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the US team are 'looking forward to several important days of talks' in Beijing

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the US team are 'looking forward to several important days of talks' in Beijing

USA and Chinese negotiators are meeting this week for their final trade talks before President Donald Trump decides whether to escalate a dispute over technology with a March 2 tariff hike on $200 billion of imports from China.

Mr Trump has indicated he is flexible to the March 1 deadline, suggesting he would let the date "slide for a little while" if a deal was in sight but would prefer not to do so.

Trump in December postponed plans to sharply hike tariffs on US$200 billion of Chinese imports to allow more time for negotiation.

The two countries have already slapped tariffs on more than $360 billion in two-way trade, which has weighed on their manufacturing sectors and shaken global financial markets.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He (C), also a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chief of the Chinese side of the China-U.S. comprehensive economic dialogue, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer (L) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin jointly chair the opening ceremony of a new round of high-level economic and trade consultations in Beijing, capital of China, Feb. 14, 2019.

"Looking forward to discussions today", Mnuchin was quoted by Reuters as saying, without elaborating, as he left his hotel on Thursday morning.

Expectations for a trade deal have grown as China faces pressure from slowing economic growth, and as swooning global markets rattle Trump and his economic advisors.

President Xi is expected to meet with the US delegation in Beijing on Friday, .as they hope to shake hands on a deal as quickly as possible.

Trump has said he did not expect to meet with Xi prior to March 1, but White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders has raised the possibility of a meeting between the leaders at the president's personal retreat at Mar-a-Lago in Florida.

Investment banker Mr Mnuchin said "so far, so good" when asked how the trade pact talks were going but refused to comment on who he had been meeting with. "They're showing us tremendous respect", Trump added.

Trump's advisers have described March 1 as a "hard deadline", but Trump told reporters a delay was possible.

The two sides said major progress was made in talks last month in Washington, but a wide gulf remains on some issues.

Washington is demanding far-reaching changes to Chinese practices that it says are unfair, including theft of U.S. technology and intellectual property, and myriad barriers that foreign companies face in the Chinese domestic market.

Companies on both sides have been battered by Washington's tariffs and retaliatory duties imposed by the government of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

China's exports rebounded in January from a contraction late a year ago amid trade tensions with Washington, but imports declined.

A banquet will be hosted for the United States delegation in "a Chinese cuisine restaurant" in Beijing later this week, with Liu expected to toast the U.S. delegates.

"China will never harm its fundamental interests. The policy has been tested by the trade war and we have seen the change in Washington's attitude", the paper said.

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