US commerce secretary says to focus on reducing defict with China

US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross (L) met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (R) in Beijing and called for "concrete deliverables" to reduce the US trade deficit with China
AFP

Washington (AFP) – US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will return to Beijing in November to focus on reducing the US trade deficit with China, the Commerce Department announced.

Ross met with several senior Chinese officials including Premier Li Keqiang and Vice Premier Wang Yang over the weekend to discuss some of the key frictions in the trade relationship, including protection of US intellectual property and sensitive technology, according to a readout of his meetings.

The Trump administration has made reducing bilateral trade deficits a central goal of trade policy, and opened talks to renegotiate free trade agreements with Canada and Mexico, and with Korea.

Ross will return to China with “a senior level trade mission … to reduce the trade deficit through increased exports of high-value US goods and services to China and improved market access for US firms,” the Commerce Department said late Monday.

As part of its combative trade policy, the Trump administration in recent months has opened an investigation into China’s intellectual property rights protections, notably requiring forced transfer of technology before allowing a foreign company to invest, as well as the country’s steel production, which could pose a national security threat to the US.

In his meetings in Beijing over the weekend, Ross stressed the need for “concrete deliverables and meaningful action on key issues.”

“Chinese officials committed to further market opening,” Commerce said, but “continually stressed that dialogue is preferable to unilateral action, saying that they would have to respond in kind to any potential action by the United States.”

The officials had “a friendly and honest exchange of views on a range of issues including the need to rebalance bilateral trade and investment relations, protect intellectual property, lower tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and guarantee fair and reciprocal treatment for US firms,” the statement said.

Ross’ visit was in preparation for President Donald Trump’s planned trip to China in November.

The world’s two top economies have been at odds over how to handle North Korea’s nuclear threat, with Beijing repeatedly calling for peace talks and the United States pressing for massive economic pressure on China’s ally.

China has since agreed to a slew of United Nations sanctions against North Korea, including a new package of measures restricting some oil shipments following Pyongyang’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test.

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