Deputy-level U.S.-China trade talks are scheduled to start in Washington on Thursday, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office said on Monday, paving the way for high-level talks in October aimed at resolving a bitter, 14-month trade war.
A USTR spokesman did not offer any further details about the deputy-level talks.
Earlier, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Tom Donohue said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told business executives he was seeking a “real agreement” that addresses intellectual property and technology transfer issues first raised by the USTR two years ago.
Donohue, speaking at a news conference to urge congressional approval of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, said Lighthizer “did indicate that there was some movement in the direction of purchasing of (U.S.) agricultural products and other issues.”
But Lighthizer gave no indication the talks may produce an interim deal with a more limited scope, as suggested by some media reports, Donohue said.
The head of the biggest U.S. business lobbying group added it would be difficult to secure an agreement fully addressing U.S. demands for sweeping changes to China’s intellectual property and technology transfer practices, market access and subsidy issues.
“While I’m optimistic about it, I’m also a dead-ass realist and this is not a simple problem,” Donohue said of the new round of talks.
Leading the Chinese delegation in the deputy-level talks will be Vice Finance Minister Liao Min, the Chinese commerce ministry said on Tuesday.
The visit will pave the way for the China-U.S. high-level economic and trade consultations in Washington next month, the ministry added.
Lighthizer and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are expected to meet with China’s top negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He, in early October.
President Donald Trump last week delayed a tariff increase that had been scheduled for Oct. 1 on $250-billion worth of Chinese goods after China also delayed tariffs on some U.S. imports.
The world’s two largest economies have not held in-person talks since late July toward resolving their 14-month trade war, which has roiled markets, disrupted supply chains and threatened global growth.
Economic factors are weighing on both sides, said Stephen Kho, former acting chief counsel on China enforcement at USTR who is now a partner at Akin Gump law firm.
“Both sides are feeling the pain now. So an interim deal could be done, but if they’re looking for a comprehensive deal … that will be very hard,” Kho said.