Washington (AFP) – US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Saturday he was considering a trip to Beijing to hold talks on the trade dispute that is seen as a threat to the global economy.
The timing is unclear, and he did not provide details on the topics to be discussed but said “a trip is under consideration.”
“I am considering that at this point,” Mnuchin told reporters during the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
Tensions between the world’s two largest economies have cast a shadow over the gathering of finance ministers, given concerns a trade war would undercut the global recovery.
The heated trade rhetoric comes at a delicate moment, as Washington and Beijing are seeking to address North Korea’s nuclear program — which Pyongyang said Saturday it would largely scale back.
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.