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China, US discuss plans for trade talks despite tensions

Muslim Times(Web Desk) – Top Chinese and US trade negotiators have discussed plans for renewed trade talks with a phone call despite tensions over the detention of a Huawei executive in Canada at Washington’s request.

Sources familiar with the conversation said the Tuesday talks involved US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Prime Minister Liu He.

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce, in a brief statement, confirmed the three men exchanged views to “push forward with next steps in a timetable and road map” for negotiations.

The three senior officials discussed Chinese purchases of agricultural products during the phone call. Beijing has planned to announce the purchase of soybeans as a goodwill gesture in the talks, which are expected to conclude on March 1.

The latest conversation follows a decision by President Donald Trump of the United States and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Argentina in early December to hold off on further trade war tariffs for 90 days.

The latest announcement indicated talks are on track despite China’s weekend threats of unspecified “grave consequences” if the Huawei executive was not released. She was arrested in Canada on Washington’s charges of possible violations of trade sanctions on Iran.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Tuesday that Beijing would firmly resist “acts of bullying that wantonly infringe upon the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens.”

Last week, the Chinese Commerce Ministry said Beijing would carry out the terms of the trade war ceasefire and expressed optimism a deal can be reached during the 90-day period.

China also planned to send a 30-member delegation to the US this week as a follow-up to the Xi-Trump meeting, but a US business sector source said the trip might be delayed due to complications over the trade talks.

The two countries are locked in a major trade dispute after Trump imposed hefty tariffs on Chinese imports earlier this year. Trump initiated what is effectively a trade war with China in April, when he first imposed unusually heavy tariffs on imports from the Asian country.

The Trump administration approved tariff hikes of 25 percent on $50 billion of Chinese goods and 10 percent on another $200 billion of imports in response to complaints that Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology.

Beijing responded by imposing its own tariffs on US products, effectively halting its purchase of key American agricultural exports.

China retaliated with penalties on $110 billion of American goods. Trump has threatened to expand charges to all goods from China.

The US imported nearly $500 billion worth of products from China last year while exporting about $130 billion in American goods to the country in the same period.

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