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China and US must both compromise at Xi-Trump meeting, Beijing negotiator says

25/06/2019

A member of China’s trade negotiation team has said both Beijing and Washington will need to compromise if they are to reach a trade deal when presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump meet during the G20 summit in Osaka later this week.

Vice-Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen, a top deputy in the negotiation team, laid out China’s position ahead of the talks between the two leaders, suggesting that Beijing should not be the only side to make concessions in efforts to end the year-long trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

“We should meet each other halfway, which means that both sides will need to compromise and make concessions, and not just one side,” Wang said during a press briefing in Beijing on Monday.

Wang said that to reach a trade deal, both sides should negotiate on the basis of equality, respect each other’s sovereignty and World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, and benefit both sides. The countries are locked in disputes over issues including trade and security.

Xi will travel to Japan on Thursday and is expected to meet Trump on the sidelines of the gathering of leading and emerging economies, which takes place on Friday and Saturday.

The pair held a phone call last week. Trump tweeted after the call that they “had a very good telephone conversation” and would be having an “extended meeting” at the G20 summit.

The South China Morning Post reported last week that trade negotiators from China and the United States – the former led by Vice-Premier Liu He and the latter by Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin – could meet in Osaka as early as Tuesday.

On Friday, US Vice-President Mike Pence called off a planned speech that was expected to criticise China’s human rights record, to prevent further tensions ahead of the planned meeting of Xi and Trump, a White House official said, citing “progress in conversations” between the two leaders.

However, Washington has stepped up pressure on other fronts. Last week, the US State Department released its 2018 Report on International Religious Freedom, again criticising China for “staggering scope of religious freedom abuses in Xinjiang”.

“In Xinjiang province in particular, the mass detainment of more than 1 million Chinese Muslims is an outright atrocity,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

Also last week, the US Commerce Department said it had added five Chinese firms that manufacture supercomputers and their components to its entity list, restricting their ability to do business with US companies.

The blacklist effectively bars American firms from selling technology to the Chinese organisations without government approval. Last month, the Commerce Department added telecoms maker Huawei to the list, heightening tensions with Beijing.

At the press conference on Monday, Wang called on the Trump administration to remove the ban, and to ensure equal treatment for Chinese companies.

“The US’ restriction of its own exports will not do any good to the trade balance [between China and the US],” Wang said. “It will hurt both Chinese and American companies, as well as disrupting the international trade order and technology exchange.

“We hope the US side can … cancel these unilateral measures that target Chinese companies, and remove them.”

Wang also called for the rest of the G20 countries to “take actions” to oppose what China sees as a rise of “unilateralism” and “protectionism”, an indirect swipe at Trump’s emphasis on putting “America first”.

According to Chinese officials at the press conference, Xi will hold a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the Osaka summit, during which the trio will “coordinate” on their positions on major world issues.

The officials said Xi would also meet leaders from member countries of BRICS – the association of emerging economies that includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Shi Yinhong, an international relations professor at Renmin University of China, said neither president was likely to feel an urgency to reach a deal in Japan.

“Both of them seem to have political will to ensure that no deal is better than a bad deal,” Shi, an adviser to China’s State Council, said.

He said China’s demand that any trade deal should be compatible with WTO rules included “compatibility with WTO leniency or preferences granted to China as a developing nation”. Various US demands during the trade war had ignored this rule, he said.

Tao Wenzhao, a researcher with the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Washington was acting against the WTO’s ethos by demanding that China reduce its trade surplus with the US in a limited time. “The WTO said world trade should be open and free,” Tao said. “It won’t be free if it is arranged by government.”

Source: South China Morning Post