By Agence France-Presse
The United States and China have agreed to cooperate on reducing the trade deficit in the first round of economic talks under the Trump administration, Washington said at the conclusion of the meeting Wednesday which produced no major breakthroughs.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had opened the talks between the world’s top two economies with tough demands for a more “fair, equitable and reciprocal” relationship, with more access for American-made goods and services.
The US side blamed the unbalanced relationship — marked by a trade deficit with China of $309 billion last year — on Beijing’s policies that impede access to their market. China says Washington’s own rules restricting US high-tech exports are partially to blame.
But Ross and Mnuchin took a more measured tone in a statement following the conclusion of the talks with the Chinese delegation, led by Vice Premier Wang Yang.
“China acknowledged our shared objective to reduce the trade deficit which both sides will work cooperatively to achieve,” the two officials said in a joint statement.
“The principles of balance, fairness, and reciprocity on matters of trade will continue to guide the American position so we can give American workers and businesses an opportunity to compete on a level playing field.”
In his remarks at the one-day meeting’s opening ceremony, Ross had insisted change was necessary given the more than 200 percent surge in Chinese exports to the United States in the last 15 years.
“If this were just the natural product of free market forces, we could understand it, but it’s not,” Ross said.
“So it is time to rebalance our trade and investment relationship in a more fair, equitable and reciprocal manner.”
The tough talk seemed like a return to Trump’s message during his campaign, when he attacked Beijing for unfair trade practices. However, a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Florida resort in April had prompted a change of rhetoric and the launch of a 100-day economic cooperation plan.
That led to specific but narrow achievements, including opening the Chinese market to US beef exports, and pledges to remove barriers to US credit card transactions, credit ratings, and other financial services, including bond underwriting.
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