A Chinese national flag flutters on the Pearl River in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China. Picture: REUTERS
A Chinese national flag flutters on the Pearl River in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China. Picture: REUTERS

Beijing — Chinese President Xi Jinping’s top economic adviser, Vice-Premier Liu He, would meet a high-level US trade delegation in Beijing this week, the government said on Wednesday, amid a festering dispute between the world’s two largest economies.

US President Donald Trump has threatened tariffs on up to $150bn worth of Chinese goods to punish China for its joint-venture requirements and other policies the US says force its companies to surrender their intellectual property to state-backed Chinese competitors.

China, which denies it coerces such technology transfers, has threatened retaliation in equal measure, including tariffs on US soybeans and aircraft.

In a brief statement, China’s commerce ministry welcomed the delegation’s trip to Beijing, set for Thursday and Friday. It said Liu would meet its members to "exchange views" on issues of mutual concern about Sino-US trade and business ties. It did not elaborate.

Liu, a Harvard-trained economist, went to Washington in late February for trade talks, but achieved no breakthrough.

Global steel and aluminium tariffs

Instead, just as he arrived, the Trump administration announced global steel and aluminium tariffs aimed at punishing China for overproduction of steel that harm US steel makers.

The US delegation includes trade representative Robert Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, White House trade and manufacturing adviser Peter Navarro and new White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow.

China has not said what will be on the agenda, but said it was determined to open its economy further to the outside world, and denounced what it called US protectionism.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the talks would be constructive so long as the US came in good faith. However, owing to the complexities, it was not realistic to expect every issue to be resolved simply with just one round of talks, she said.

The talks needed some give-and-take, the official China Daily said on Wednesday.

"The time when China could be forced to open its doors is long past and Beijing is not opening them wider now simply to appease others," it said.

"If the US delegation comes to China believing Beijing’s resolve to open wider to the outside world is a matter of expediency under pressure from Washington, it will probably mean a lot of time is wasted setting the record straight."

Lighthizer said on Tuesday he would seek to expose China to more foreign competition. He told US Chamber of Commerce members he saw the talks as the start of a long learning process for Washington and Beijing to manage trade differences better.

On Tuesday, Ross said Trump was prepared to levy tariffs on China if the delegation did not reach a negotiated settlement to reduce trade imbalances.