US-China trade talks split without resolution
Trade talks between the US and China that were aimed at averting the imposition of new tariffs in March have broken up without reaching a resolution.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called the talks in Beijing "productive" in a tweet on Friday but there was no sign of any sort of breakthrough in the talks led by Mnuchin, Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He.
"We feel that we have to make headway on some very, very important and very difficult issues," said Lighthizer.
The US has previously warned that it will seek to narrow its trade deficit with China by increasing tariff rates on $200bn worth of Chinese imports from 10% to 25% if no deal can be reached between the two superpowers by 1 March, although President Trump has recently hinted that this deadline could be extended if progress looks likely.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, who hosted a banquet attended by members of the US delegation after the talks, said "important step-by-step progress" had been achieved and that representatives would meet again next week in Washington in order to reach "a mutually beneficial, win-win agreement".
Currently, the US has imposed tariffs on $250bn worth of Chinese goods, while China has retaliated by imposing duties on $110bn of US products.
In efforts to resolve the long-running dispute, China has already committed to increase imports of US goods such as semiconductors and soybeans, but the US also wants Beijing to clamp down on the theft of technology patents and alter economic policies that it argues unfairly favour Chinese companies.
However, some analysts have voiced concerns that structural reforms will be difficult for Beijing as the nations economy slows down, having registered its lowest growth rate since 1989 last year.
But with political pressure mounting at home for President Trump the administration could settle for simply narrowing the trade deficit through additional Chinese purchases of US goods.
Michael Hirson, Eurasia Group’s director for China, told the Washington Post: "President Trump is much more interested in somewhat symbolic wins, in particular China’s commitment to purchase a given amount of US goods, than he is in the more abstract structural issues."