China, US Preparing for Next Stage of Trade Talks

December 11, 2018 Updated: December 11, 2018

U.S.-China trade talks are pressing forward even as concerns swirl over the potential political fallout from the the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada on Dec. 1.

China and the United States discussed a road map for the next stage of their trade talks on Dec. 11 during a telephone call between Vice Premier Liu He, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed at a Dec. 1 meeting in Argentina to a truce that delayed a planned Jan. 1 U.S. increase of tariffs to 25 percent from 10 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.

Lighthizer said on Dec. 9 that March 1 would be the “hard deadline” by which trade talks would have to be wrapped up. If the talks do not yield an agreement by that time, the previously planned tariffs would be introduced.

China’s commerce ministry said in a statement Liu had spoken to Mnuchin and Lighthizer early on Dec. 11, Beijing time, on a prearranged telephone call.

“Both sides exchanged views on putting into effect the consensus reached by the two countries’ leaders at their meeting, and pushing forward the timetable and roadmap for the next stage of economic and trade consultations work,” the ministry said without elaborating.

A U.S. Treasury spokesman confirmed that the call with Liu took place, but offered no further details.

Meanwhile, Trump was optimistic about the progress of the talks, posting Dec. 11 on Twitter after the telephone call: “Very productive conversations going on with China! Watch for some important announcements!”

The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the issue, said Liu planned to go to Washington after the new year.

The Harvard-educated Liu, Xi’s top economic adviser, is leading the talks on the Chinese side.

As part of the truce, Chinese officials confirmed in early December that China is set to resume the import of U.S. soybeans. Exports of the U.S. soybeans drastically decreased after China slapped retaliatory duties of 25 percent on the product this spring.

Regime Continues to Protest Meng Arrest

The developments on the trade talk come amid the ongoing bail hearing in Canada of arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou. Meng is using a Hong Kong shell company to violate U.S. sanctions against Iran, and misleading banks about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran.

Earlier, the Chinese regime warned Canada there would be “grave consequences” if it did not release Meng. It made a similar threat to the United States.

On Dec. 12, Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale confirmed the detention of former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig. He was reportedly detained in Beijing on Dec. 11 during one of his regular visits to the city.

Goodale said the government was “sparing no effort” to ensure Kovrig’s safety.

U.S. trade officials have repeatedly stressed that Meng’s arrest is a separate issue to the trade talks. Lighthizer on Dec. 10 described it to be a matter of law enforcement, something “totally separate” from his work in trade policy.

According to U.S. officials, Trump did not know about the arrest when he met with Xi on Dec. 1.

While the Chinese regime has frequently invoked the violation of Chinese citizen’s human rights in its protests against Meng’s arrest, many note that such rights are not afforded to Chinese people under the regime’s one-party-rule. The Chinese Communist Party has detained at least one million Uyghur muslims in internment-style camps in Xinjiang province, persecuted members of spiritual groups including Falun Gong practitioners and Christians, and launched crackdowns on human rights activists.

Reuters contributed to this article.

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