BEIJING (AP) — U.S.-Chinese talks on a war of wills over Beijing’s technology ambitions “made headway” on important issues, the chief American envoy said Friday, but he gave no indication whether Washington would postpone a planned March 2 tariff hike.
Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer expressed optimism but gave no details of the two days of negotiations. Economists said they were too brief to resolve the tariff fight that threatens to chill weakening global economic growth.
“We feel we have made headway on very, very important and difficult issues,” Lighthizer told Chinese President Xi Jinping in a meeting after the talks ended at a government guesthouse. “We have additional work we have to do but we are hopeful.”
Xi said Beijing and Washington “share broad mutual interests” in promoting global economic prosperity and stability.
“We shoulder important responsibilities,” the Chinese leader said.
There was no indication whether the talks made progress on the thorniest dispute: U.S. pressure on Beijing to scale back plans for government-led creation of Chinese global leaders in robotics and other technologies.
President Donald Trump had made “no decision” on the tariff hike, his adviser, Larry Kudlow, told reporters Thursday in Washington. The president said Tuesday he might let the March 2 deadline “slide for a little while” if the talks went well.
Washington, Europe, Japan and other governments say Beijing’s industry plans violate its market-opening obligations. Some American officials worry they might erode U.S. industrial leadership.
Trump raised tariffs in July over complaints Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology. The dispute has spread to cover cyber-spying traced to China, the country’s multibillion-dollar trade surplus with the United States and support for state industry.
Beijing has offered to narrow its trade surplus by purchasing more American soybeans, natural gas and other exports. But the government has resisted pressure to cut back development plans it sees as a path to prosperity and global influence.
“From politics to economy to ideology, the United States hopes to intervene in China’s affairs,” said the newspaper Global Times, published by the ruling Communist Party.
Chinese officials also balk at U.S. pressure to accept an enforcement mechanism to monitor whether Beijing carries out its promises.
Beijing has tried to deflect pressure by emphasizing China’s growth as an export market. It has announced changes over the past year to open finance and other fields, including allowing full foreign ownership in its auto industry for the first time.