US commerce chief Wilbur Ross to head to China on trade mission

Added uncertainty hangs over talks as Trump says any deal will need a ‘different structure”

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 May, 2018, 1:05pm
UPDATED : Friday, 25 May, 2018, 11:04pm

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will visit China early next month for another round of talks amid trade frictions between the world’s two largest economies.

Ross will visit China from June 2 to June 4, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Friday, adding that Vice-Premier Liu He, China’s chief negotiator in the trade dispute, had spoken to Ross over the phone. It gave no further details.

The trade dispute took on added complexity this week when US President Donald Trump announced a national security investigation into imports of cars and trucks, a probe that could lead to tariffs against China as well as key US allies such as Canada, Mexico, Japan and Germany.

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US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC on Monday that Ross was aiming to negotiate “a framework” that could then turn into “binding agreements ... between companies”.

In the last round of talks in Washington in mid-May, China agreed to ramp up purchases of US agricultural and energy products, and the two sides worked towards a possible reprieve for ZTE from a US ban on American companies supplying the Chinese maker of telecoms equipment.

The developments and constructive comments from both sides eased fears that the United States and China could plunge into a trade war, but Trump said this week that any deal would need “a different structure”, fuelling uncertainty over the negotiations.

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Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on up to US$150 billion of Chinese goods to combat what he says is Beijing’s misappropriation of US technology through joint venture requirements and other policies.

Beijing has threatened equal retaliation, including tariffs on some of its largest US imports, including aircraft, soybeans and cars.