Senior Chinese and US officials met in Beijing today for a second day of high-stakes trade talks aimed at forestalling the growing momentum towards a trade war that would trigger billions of dollars of trade tariffs. The discussions mark a potential off ramp for the trade conflict that could dent humming global economic growth. US President Donald Trump has threatened to levy new tariffs on USD 150 billion of Chinese imports while Beijing shot back with a list of USD 50 billion in targeted US goods. The US and China are having “very good conversations,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters before leaving his hotel this morning for the Diaoyutai state guest house, where the talks are being held. However, officials declined to give details of the discussions.
“I have to get on this elevator and not talk to reporters,” White House advisor and noted China hawk Peter Navarro told an AFP reporter at his hotel. During an event in Washington, US Vice President Mike Pence’s economic advisor Mark Calabria said that the first day of talks had been “fairly positive,” according to Bloomberg News. The US has given China a “detailed list of asks”, he said, adding that the US wants China to lower tariffs to match the American level. US President Donald Trump has made reciprocity a key demand in negotiations with China. “The difficulty will always be that we will most of the time hear pretty positive things from China and the question is whether they will actually do them,” Calabria said.
Vice Premier in charge of the economy Liu He is leading the discussions for China. Known as President Xi Jinping’s right hand man on economic matters, Liu was noticeably absent from Xi’s speech Friday morning commemorating the birth of Karl Marx and the continued relevance of his theories to China, which he delivered to a full audience in the Great Hall of the People.