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Xi’s envoy, Trump trade team to meet

Some see promise in Washington’s talk of easing sanctions on Chinese phone company ZTE.


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Updated: May 15, 2018

Vice-Premier Liu He will visit the United States as President Xi Jinping’s special envoy from Tuesday to Saturday for economic and trade talks, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Monday.

Liu will lead a delegation in talks with the US team headed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at the invitation of the US administration, said Lu Kang, the ministry’s spokesman.

These will follow high-level meetings in Beijing on May 3 and 4. Both sides are expected to continue discussing issues like expansion of US exports to China, trade in services, two-way investment, the protection of intellectual property rights and the resolution of tariff and non-tariff measures, said Tu Xinquan, a trade professor at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.

US President Donald Trump said on Sunday he has instructed the Commerce Department to help China’s ZTE Corp get back to business, and Lu said China appreciates the latest positive comment on ZTE. He said China has maintained close communication with the US.

ZTE, a major telecom equipment manufacturer, said last week it would suspend major operations following last month’s move by Washington to ban US companies from selling certain computer chips to the Chinese company until 2025.

The US has accused ZTE of violating laws by illegally shipping US goods to Iran and breaching a deal reached last year. ZTE has appealed.

ZTE says the ban would “severely impact the survival and development” of the company, which depends on US companies to supply about a quarter of its technology components.

“I see this as a positive step and hope it will create a better atmosphere for the ongoing discussions between the two countries,” said Henry Levine, a former US deputy assistant secretary of commerce. “I hope Beijing can respond with a positive step of its own and hope that both Beijing and Washington can begin a … process where each takes positive steps and the other one responds with its own positive steps,” he said.

Eswar Prasad, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former China division chief at the International Monetary Fund, said the move of the Trump administration sets the stage for a temporary de-escalation of trade tensions between the two countries.

“It bodes well for the upcoming visit by Liu He to Washington and suggests that an agreement can be reached that allows both sides to claim at least a partial victory,” he said.



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