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Trade war, day 167: Face-to-face talks scheduled for January

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Steven Mnuchin, the U.S. Treasury Secretary who is reportedly not leading U.S.-China trade talks but joined U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in his phone call with Chinese vice minister Liú Hè 刘鹤 last week, spoke to Bloomberg (porous paywall) about the discussions:

  • The two sides “held vice-ministerial level talks” today, and have “held several rounds of talks in recent weeks,” Bloomberg reports.
  • “We expect there will be meetings in January,” Mnuchin said. Chinese officials also confirmed that is the plan.
  • “China understands that these are separate tracks,” he added, referring to the Meng Wanzhou arrest that Trump tied to the trade war last week.
  • “We are determined that if we have an agreement [by March 1] it will be specific enough that time frames and details and everything else will be laid out,” Mnuchin emphasized, addressing a common worry in Washington that Beijing is happy to overpromise and underdeliver on economic reforms.

In other trade war news:

  • Another shipment of American soybeans has been bought by China, Reuters reports, taking the total up to “about 3 million tonnes” since the trade war ceasefire on December 1.
  • But an analyst said this was far short of expectations: “The expectation coming out the Argentina meeting was 10 to 12 million tonnes.”
  • The two countries traded barbs at the World Trade Organization (again). Also per Reuters:
    • “The crisis is caused by the fundamental incompatibility of China’s trade-distorting, non-market economic regime with an open, transparent and predictable international trading system,” U.S. Ambassador Dennis Shea argued in a closed-door session.
    • “China absolutely refuses to be the scapegoat and excuse for unilateralism and protectionism,” and “reckless actions” by the Trump administration were instead the cause of the trade war, a Chinese ministry of commerce official responded.
    • The EU apparently agrees with China, and Shea objected to European officials’ use of the word “epicentre” to describe Washington when talking about the trade war.

More links related to the U.S.-China trade war and its global effects:


Previously in SupChina’s trade war coverage:

Trade war, day 166: China admits it has Canadian hostages

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Lucas Niewenhuis

Lucas Niewenhuis is an associate editor at SupChina who helps curate daily news and produce the company's newsletter, app, and website content. Previously, Lucas researched China-Africa relations at the Social Science Research Council and interned at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He has studied Chinese language and culture in Shanghai and Beijing, and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.

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