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Close Xi aide to meet US trade delegation in Beijing

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Chinese President Xi Jinping's top economic adviser, Vice Premier Liu He, will meet a top-level US trade delegation in Beijing this week, the government said on Wednesday, amid a festering dispute between the world's two largest economies.

[BEIJING] Chinese President Xi Jinping's top economic adviser, Vice Premier Liu He, will meet a top-level US trade delegation in Beijing this week, the government said on Wednesday, amid a festering dispute between the world's two largest economies.

US President Donald Trump has threatened tariffs on up to US$150 billion worth of Chinese goods to punish China over its joint-venture requirements and other policies the United States says force American companies to surrender their intellectual property to state-backed Chinese competitors.

China, which denies it coerces such technology transfers, has threatened retaliation in equal measure, including tariffs on US soybeans and aircraft.

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In a brief statement, China's Commerce Ministry welcomed the delegation's trip to Beijing, set for Thursday and Friday, adding that Mr Liu would meet its members to "exchange views" on issues of mutual concern about Sino-US trade and business ties.

It did not elaborate.

Mr Liu, a Harvard-trained economist, went to Washington in late February for trade talks, but achieved no breakthrough.

Instead, just as he arrived, the Trump administration announced global steel and aluminium tariffs aimed at punishing China for what Washington says is its overproduction of steel that hurts US steel makers.

This week's US visitors include Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, White House trade and manufacturing adviser Peter Navarro and new White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow.

China has not said what exactly will be on the agenda, but it says it is determined to open its economy further to the outside world, and has denounced what it calls US protectionism.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters the talks would be constructive so long as the United States came in good faith.

However, owing to the complex nature and sheer size of the relationship, it was not really very realistic to expect everything to be resolved simply with just one round of talks, she said.

The talks needed some give-and-take, the official China Daily said in a Wednesday editorial.

"The time when China could be forced to open its doors is long past, and Beijing is not opening them wider now simply to appease others," it said.

"If the US delegation comes to China believing Beijing's resolve to open wider to the outside world is a matter of expediency under pressure from Washington, it will likely mean a lot of time is wasted setting the record straight." Mr Lighthizer said on Tuesday he was not looking to negotiate changes to China's state-driven economic system in the talks, but would seek to expose it to more foreign competition.

Mr Lighthizer told the US Chamber of Commerce he viewed the talks as the start of a long learning process for Washington and Beijing to better manage their trade differences.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Ross said Mr Trump was prepared to levy tariffs on China if the delegation did not reach a negotiated settlement to reduce trade imbalances.

Speaking to CNBC television before travelling to China, Mr Ross said he had "some hope" agreements could be reached to resolve the trade tensions between the two sides.

But Mr Ross and Mr Navarro, who spoke to steel company executives in Washington on Tuesday, both said any final decision would be made by Mr Trump.

REUTERS