US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin not planning China meetings at G20 summit

Officials insist minister will have opportunities to discuss trade issues at meeting in Argentina this weekend

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 July, 2018, 1:24pm
UPDATED : Friday, 26 October, 2018, 3:57pm

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has no formal bilateral meetings planned with Chinese officials at this weekend’s G20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in Argentina, a senior Treasury official said on Tuesday.

The official said, however, that there would be ample opportunities for Mnuchin to interact with Chinese officials in G20 group sessions, dinners and informal settings to discuss trade issues dividing the two countries.

Mnuchin told US lawmakers last week the Trump administration was prepared to reopen talks with China to resolve trade issues, but only if Beijing was willing to pursue “serious efforts to make structural changes” to its policies.

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The United States and China have imposed tariffs on US$34 billion of each other’s imports, and President Donald Trump has threatened tariffs on over US$500 billion worth of Chinese goods – effectively covering all American imports from China – unless Beijing agrees to changes in its intellectual property practices and hi-tech industrial subsidy plans.

The Treasury official said that Mnuchin was “ready to re-engage with the Chinese”, but it did not have to be in a formal bilateral meeting at the G20 finance gathering.

“The secretary has had substantial contact with Chinese officials, and so there’s not the imperative at this meeting to have formal bilaterals because there’ll be substantial contact,” the official said.

The trade tensions are caused by China’s policies that “have moved in a non-market direction over the years and creates problems for many countries”, he said.

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Mnuchin will hold separate bilateral meetings with officials from France, Canada, Germany and Mexico, among others, while at the G20.

Finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of 20 leading economies are due to meet in Buenos Aires Saturday and Sunday, where Mnuchin “will respond to concerns on US trade policies”, the official said in a conference call.

Group of Seven officials on hand for the broader meeting would also hold a one-hour session during which they would again discuss “concrete action with regard to China and its economic aggression”, he said.

That included subsidies China used to create excess steel production capacity “burdening workers around the world”, as well as heavy reliance on state-owned enterprises and export credits, the official said.

The meeting would “renew” a lot of the Western industrial powers’ concerns over China’s industrial subsidies, export credits and lending to developing countries, he said.

“The G7 has had substantial discussions and finds common ground with regard to the concerns over China’s non-market practices,” the official said.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse