Beijing says welcomes Mnuchin visit for crunch trade talks

US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin opened the door to talks with China to resolve the brewing trade dispute

Beijing (AFP) – Beijing on Sunday said it would welcome a visit from US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who said he was considering a trip to the Chinese capital to hold talks on the trade dispute seen as a threat to the global economy.

Tensions between the world’s two largest economies have cast a shadow over the gathering of finance ministers in Washington, with concerns a trade war could undercut the global recovery.

Mnuchin had said Saturday during the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in the US capital that “a trip is under consideration”.

The Chinese Commerce Ministry on Sunday welcomed the move.

“China has received the information that the US side wish to come in Beijing in order to conduct economic and trade consultations. China welcomes this.”

US President Donald Trump last month approved steep tariffs on tens of billions of dollars of Chinese imports, while Beijing has slapped duties on key US agricultural exports and has threatened to do likewise for the sensitive American soybean industry.

Among 18 bilateral meetings with his counterparts this week, Mnuchin said he had met with Chinese central bank chief Yi Gang.

While the meeting with Yi did not focus on trade with China, Mnuchin said he remains “cautiously optimistic” about the issue.

“The discussions were really around the governor’s actions at the PBOC and certain actions they’ve announced in terms of opening their markets which we very much encourage and appreciate,” Mnuchin said.

He also confirmed that the United States now supports a $13 billion capital increase for the World Bank in tandem with a set of reforms, including reducing lending to wealthier countries — a move widely seen as targeting China.

“I look at this as a package transaction… we support a capital increase on the World Bank along with the associated reforms that they’re talking about making,” Mnuchin said, adding that he was hopeful Congress would approve the increase.

The heated trade rhetoric between the US and China comes at a delicate moment, as Washington and Beijing are seeking to address North Korea’s nuclear programme. Pyongyang announced Saturday it would halt nuclear tests intercontinental ballistic missile launches.