Chinese President Xi Jinping plans to meet top American officials in Beijing this week, a report said on Wednesday, as the world’s two biggest economies rush to patch up their trade differences amid threats of an expanded trade war.
On Friday, Xi will meet with officials including US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who are in the Chinese capital for crunch talks over a trade deal, according to the South China Morning Post.
“Xi is scheduled to meet both Lighthizer and Mnuchin on Friday,” it said, quoting a source briefed on the arrangements.
The US officials and their Chinese counterparts are also scheduled to meet for talks on Thursday and Friday.
The United States is scheduled to raise import taxes on $200bn worth of Chinese goods on March 2 if the two sides fail to resolve their differences.
The two countries have already slapped tariffs on more than $360bn in a two-way trade, which has weighed on their manufacturing sectors and shaken global financial markets.
US President Donald Trump, however, said on Tuesday that he was open to extending that, depending on the progress in Beijing.
“If we’re close to a deal, where we think we can make a real deal … I could see myself letting that slide for a little while,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
In December, Washington put a three month suspension on Trump’s plan to increase tariffs on $200bn worth of Chinese imports – from 10 percent to 25 percent – in order to allow time for negotiations.
Threats of economic ‘storm’
Mnuchin told reporters in Beijing late on Tuesday that he was eager to start.
“We’re looking forward to several important days of talks,” he said in brief remarks.
He and other US officials left their hotel on Wednesday without making substantive remarks.
The Chinese delegation will be led by Vice Premier Liu He, China’s point man on trade, and the Governor of the People’s Bank of China Yi Gang.
The two sides said major progress was made in talks last month in Washington, but subsequent comments have been less optimistic, jarring financial markets and amplifying concerns about how the dispute will affect fragile world growth.
But global stocks rose after Trump’s hint of a deadline extension.
Washington is demanding far-reaching changes to Chinese practices that it says are unfair, including theft of US technology and intellectual property, and myriad barriers that foreign companies face in the Chinese domestic market.
China has offered to boost its purchases of US imports but is widely expected to resist calls for major changes to its industrial policies such as slashing government subsidies.
The International Monetary Fund warned on Sunday of a possible global economic “storm” as world growth forecasts dip, citing the US-China trade dispute as a pivotal point.