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Trump plans to meet with China's top economic envoy

Meetings are a continuation of the talks held in Beijing, and will focus on rebalancing US-China economic ties

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US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (left) and US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (right) at the Beijing talks earlier this month. Both will be involved as the talks head into a second round in Washington.

Washington

US President Donald Trump plans to meet with China's top economic envoy at the White House on Thursday, said the president's senior economic adviser, who described the negotiations to ease the US-China trade conflict as "difficult".

Mr Trump is "involved in every decision", Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, told reporters at the White House on Thursday. "We are going to have serious talks dealing with the difficult trade situation that needs to be fixed." The sides are expected to exchange new proposals during the top-level talks on Thursday and Friday in Washington, said Mr Kudlow.

Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He is also scheduled to meet with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, according to the White House. Mr Mnuchin led a trip to Beijing earlier this month for talks, but they failed to make progress. "I am very hopeful," said Mr Kudlow. He repeated that Mr Ross is reviewing US penalties placed on Chinese's telecoms equipment maker ZTE Corp last month for violating sanctions law - a key demand from China in the trade talks.

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Mr Mnuchin continues to lead the talks in Washington as the countries try to head off a trade war. "These meetings are a continuation of the talks held in Beijing two weeks ago, and will focus on rebalancing the United States-China bilateral economic relationship," the White House said in an earlier statement.

The US has threatened to impose 25 per cent punitive duties on up to US$150 billion in Chinese goods while China has targeted US$50 billion in American exports.

In Beijing, the commerce ministry said that China hoped that the two sides could resolve the trade frictions during the talks.

"But of course we've prepared a response for various possibilities," said commerce spokesman Gao Feng at a Thursday press briefing.

The talks, part of a busy week of trade negotiations and tight deadlines in Washington, have become enmeshed in political intrigue after an adviser to Mr Trump who is considered a hardliner on China was left out.

Peter Navarro, who was seen as having a more dominant role following the departure of White House economic adviser Gary Cohn over trade issues, was left off the list, although the statement said: "Additional senior administration officials will also participate."

According to press reports, Mr Navarro sparred with Mr Mnuchin over his handling of the China talks and was barred from attending the meetings this week.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump earlier on Wednesday denied caving to China over US sanctions on ZTE. The comments followed Mr Trump's surprise announcement on Sunday that the administration was exploring ways to soften the blow from a ban on exporting crucial US technology to the company, which Washington said violated sanctions and misled US officials.

"Nothing has happened with ZTE except as it pertains to the larger trade deal," Mr Trump said on Twitter. "China has seen our demands. There has been no folding as the media would love people to believe. The meetings haven't even started yet!"

Beijing said that it had taken note of the positive words in Washington on lessening sanctions on ZTE.

"We hope the related departments quickly take real action," said Mr Gao, while relaying some of China's other demands such as fair and equitable treatment for Chinese products and investment. "We hope the US gets rid of economic and trade restrictions it should not have." BLOOMBERG, AFP

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