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Trade war

US trade officials visit China next week for fresh round of talks

Two sides aim to strike a deal, but rifts persist on tariffs

A Maersk Line container ship prepares to depart port in Long Beach, California. Trade representatives aim to finalize trade talks in April.   © Reuters

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON -- The U.S. has scheduled a new round of high-level trade talks with China next week in Beijing, a final push to hammer out a trade agreement for the two countries' leaders to sign off on.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will travel to the country to resume talks, two administration officials said.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is reportedly preparing a reciprocal visit to Washington the following week.

The resumption of talks comes amid reports of American negotiators being concerned that China is pushing back against their demands, as Beijing sees no promise from the U.S. to lift existing punitive tariffs after it agrees to reform intellectual property policies. Bloomberg reported the change in the Chinese stance Tuesday.

Lighthizer, who leads negotiations on the U.S. side, told a Senate hearing last week that Washington will maintain its right to use tariffs as leverage to ensure enforcement even if a deal is reached.

U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators meet at the White House in Washington on Feb. 21.   © Reuters

A Sino-American summit, previously expected for late March, is nowhere to be found on Chinese President Xi Jinping's travel itinerary for later this month, released Monday by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Both Lighthizer and Mnuchin had been in talks by phone but not in person this month with Liu.

The meetings would mark the first direct talks in about a month. Ministerial-level talks have been held three times this year, at the end of January as well as in mid- and late February.

The U.S. has postponed its March 1 deadline for reaching a deal, and the two sides spoke by phone on multiple occasions during the National People's Congress in March.

President Donald Trump had indicated that he wished to reach a final agreement at a summit with Xi in the U.S. in March. But the two sides remain apart on such issues as penalties for violating the deal and the handling of additional tariffs already imposed.

Trump has changed his stance and now says he is in no rush to complete a trade deal, while the Chinese side reportedly seeks to resolve all outstanding issues ahead of a summit.

Trump said Tuesday that "talks with China are going very well" as he concluded a news conference at the White House with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

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