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Top-level US-trade talks resume as annoyingly sour atmosphere

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top US and China trade negotiators would meet on Thursday for the first time since late July to try to find a way out of a 15-month trade war as new irritants between the world's two largest economies threatened progress.

MOVIE PHOTO: US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer gestures for Finance Secretary Steven Mnuchin as he chats with Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Liu He before posing for a family photo at the Xijiao Conference Center in Shanghai, China, July 31, 2019. Ng Han Guan / Pool via REUTERS / File Photo

Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Liu He, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will try to limit the differences enough to avoid a planned $ 250 billion tariff increase in Chinese goods.

But the mood around the talks was due to the US Department of Commerce's decision Monday to blacklist 28 Chinese public security, technology and surveillance agencies, citing human rights violations by Muslim minority groups in China's Xinjiang Province. A day later, the US Department of Foreign Affairs introduced visa restrictions on Chinese officials in connection with the Xinjiang issue.

If negotiations break down again on December 15, almost all Chinese goods imports to the United States – more than $ 500 billion – could be subject to penalties in the dispute that erupted during US President Donald Trump's time in office.

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in Sydney on Thursday that the duties were working, forcing Beijing to pay attention to US concerns over its trade practices.

"We do not love customs, in fact we prefer not to use them, but after years of discussion and no action, tariffs finally force China to pay attention to our concerns," Ross said in remarks prepared for delivery it an official visit to Australia .

Although some media reports suggested that both sides are considering an "interim agreement" that would repeal planned additional US tariffs in exchange for additional purchases of US agricultural products, Trump has repeatedly dismissed this idea, insisting he wants a "big deal" "with Beijing taking up the essence of intellectual property.

Trump spoke to reporters in Washington on Wednesday, saying, "If we can do a deal, we will do a deal, there's a really good chance."

"In my opinion, China wants to do a deal more than I do," Trump added.

Both sides have been moving toward the United States' demand that China improve US intellectual property protection, stop cyber theft, and enforce it. of technology to Chinese companies, slowing industrial subsidies and increasing US companies' access to largely closed Chinese markets.


But Chinese officials, surprised and upset by the US blacklist of Chinese companies, including the manufacturer of video surveillance equipment, , as well as the suspension of US visas for some Chinese officials, told Reuters that Beijing had lowered expectations of significant progress from the talks.

"I have never seen China respond with concessions to anyone throwing the dress this way," says Scott Kennedy , a Chinese trade expert at the Center for Strategic and Int ernational Studies in Washington. "It suggests to me that the United States may have determined that progress was impossible so that everyone is just going through the movements."

Other flashpoints that have emerged in recent days include China's swift action to reduce corporate ties to National Basketball Association over a team service's tweet in support of Hong Kong's Democratic protesters.

But in a possible easing of tensions, The New York Times reported that the Trump administration will soon issue licenses that allow some US companies to sell non-sensitive goods to China's best telecom equipment manufacturer Huawei Technologies.

The report cited unnamed people who are familiar with the matter. A spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce said the agency has not received any such direction. Huawei has been on the same list since May that affects Hikvision since the US says the company can spy on customers – a charge Huawei denies.

Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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