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Wednesday 13 November 2019

US commerce secretary arrives in Beijing for talks on trade surplus

There is growing American concern about China’s status as a potential tech competitor.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

By Associated Press Reporters

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has arrived in Beijing for talks over China’s promise to buy more American goods.

The talks focus on adding details to China’s May 19 promise to narrow its politically volatile surplus in trade in goods with the United States, which reached a record $375.2 billion (£280 billion) last year.

President Donald Trump threw the status of the talks into doubt this week by renewing a threat to hike tariffs on $50 billion (£37 billion) of Chinese goods over complaints Beijing steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology.

Private sector analysts say that while Beijing is willing to compromise on its trade surplus, it will resist changes that might threaten plans to transform China into a global technology competitor.

China has promised to “significantly increase” purchases of farm goods, energy and other products and services. But Beijing resisted pressure to commit to a specific target of narrowing its annual surplus with the United States.

Following Beijing’s announcement, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the dispute was “on hold”.

But the truce appeared to end with this week’s announcement Washington was going ahead with tariff hikes on technology goods and also would impose curbs on Chinese investment and purchases of US high-tech exports.

The move reflects growing American concern about China’s status as a potential tech competitor and complaints Beijing improperly subsidises its fledgling industries and shields them from competition.

PA Media

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