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China, US should focus on ‘content of deal’


Source: Global Times    Published: 2019-3-20

US President Donald Trump (1st R) meets with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He (2nd L, front) at the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., the US, Feb. 22, 2019. (Xinhua/Liu Jie)

As Chinese and US officials appear to be racing for an agreement to end their trade war, Chinese analysts urged the two sides to focus more on the content rather than any artificial deadline to ensure a final deal would be equal and fair to both sides.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and US Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin will visit Beijing next week to meet with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He for a fresh round of high-level negotiations, several US media outlets reported on Wednesday, citing US officials.

However, as of press time on Wednesday, there were no official announcements from either the US government or the Chinese government about the reported talks.

While officials on both sides stress that communications have been continuing between Chinese and US officials, face-to-face meetings have been paused since the latest round of talks in Washington in late February, as Chinese officials were focused on the annual legislative and political consultative sessions ended last week.

"We can see both sides are striving for common ground and their efforts are quite intense," He Weiwen, a former Chinese trade official, told the Global Times on Wednesday. "These are all good interactions."

However, though it is hoped that the two sides could reach a deal by the end of April, such a deadline is not important as long as both sides continue to talk, said He, who is also a senior fellow at the Center for China and Globalization.

"Our focus should be the content of the agreement, so that it is a fair and principled agreement for both sides," he said.

He noted that the two sides seem to be stuck in details about what to do with the tariffs already imposed and a review mechanism.

Chinese officials and analysts have indicated that, after a deal, all tariffs must be lifted and that checks on implementation should be two-way and fair. "If the US can check on China, why China cannot check on the US? If it's an equal agreement, then China should also be able to check on the US," He said.

While US officials are rushing to arrange a meeting between the leaders of the two countries for a summit, the Chinese side should be patient and make sure all details are worked out before agreeing to a meeting, experts said.

"We are still at a delicate state and we should not lower our guard," said Huo Jianguo, vice chairman of the China Society for World Trade Organization Studies.

He noted that both sides face pressure domestically to not only sign a deal but not to make too many concessions.

Though a complete overturn is "highly unlikely," both sides understand that "there is no way for them to return to the period of friendly cooperation and the overall trend will be competition and cooperation," Huo told the Global Times.

He Weiwen is a senior fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.

Key Words:China   US   trade   He Weiwen  

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