U.S. officials head to China for high-level trade talks next week - Beijing

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United States envoys are to visit Beijing on Monday for talks on resolving a tariff dispute that threatens to hobble global economic growth, Beijing said yesterday.

At a summit in Argentina late past year, US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to a ceasefire, deciding to hold off on imposing more tariffs for 90 days starting December 1 while they attempt to negotiate a deal.

A team led by Deputy US Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish will come to China to have "positive and constructive discussions" with Chinese counterparts, China's commerce ministry said in a statement on its website. Its one-sentence announcement gave no other details of the agenda or who else would take part. China retaliated by imposing taxes on $60 billion worth of US goods.

Other administration officials at the talks will include Mr Gregg Doud, the US Trade Representative's chief agricultural negotiator, and Mr David Malpass, the Treasury Department's Undersecretary for International Affairs, said the sources. That would expand USA tariffs to nearly all of China's exports to the U.S.

"The negotiations next week are important because they will establish expectations, but we shouldn't expect major breakthroughs", said Mr Myron Brilliant, vice-president of worldwide affairs at the US Chamber of Commerce. The two sides face a March 1 deadline; the USA has promised to hike its import tax from 10 percent to 25 percent on $200 billion of Chinese products if no deal is reached.

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The risks to both economies have intensified since the last round of tit-for-tat tariffs in September. Auto sales tumbled 16 percent in November over a year earlier and weak real estate sales are forcing developers to cut prices.

In the US, the persistent rhetoric and reality of trade troubles with China (and other countries) has taken its toll. "There are a heck of a lot of USA companies that have sales in China that are going to be watching their earnings being downgraded next year until we get a deal with China".

Wendy Cutler, a former USA trade negotiator, said the US likely can't realistically settle for anything less than an agreement by Beijing to reform how it does business. The two sides will discuss how to implement consensus reached by leaders of both countries in Argentina, it said.

President Donald Trump on Friday said the United States could reap some benefits in trade talks with China from that country's current economic weakness.

For their part, Chinese officials are unhappy with US curbs on exports of "dual use" technology with possible military applications. But that was due partly to exporters rushing to beat new duties - a trend that is fading. It said the threat of USA tariff hikes was the "dominating factor" for almost half, while others moved due to higher costs or tighter environmental regulation. The longer their trade war lasts, the longer companies and consumers will feel the pain of higher-priced imports and exports.

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