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China trade talks resume this week, focus on intellectual property

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China’s ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai answers reporters questions in Washington. Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US negotiators are preparing to press China next week on longstanding demands that it reform how it treats American companies’ intellectual property in order to seal a trade deal that could prevent tariffs from rising on Chinese imports.

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A new round of trade talks begins in Beijing today, after the most recent set of negotiations concluded in Washington without a deal and with the top US negotiator declaring that a lot more work needed to be done.

A White House official said on Friday that preparations were under way and the talks would continue to focus on pressing Beijing to make structural reforms.

The White House announced a timeframe for the Beijing talks in a statement. It said lower-level officials will kick off the meetings today, led on the American side by Deputy US Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish.

Higher principal-level talks will take place Thursday and Friday with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Mr Lighthizer, named by Mr Trump to spearhead the process after agreeing a 90-day truce in the trade war with Beijing, has been a strong proponent of pushing China to make such reforms and end what the United States views as unfair trade practices including stealing intellectual property and forcing US companies to share their technology with Chinese firms.

China has denied it engages in such practices.

“The United States is a great producer of technology, and innovation, and know-how, and trade secrets. And we have to operate in an environment where those things are protected,” Lighthizer said last week after talks at the White House.

“I’m by no means predicting success; there is a lot of work that has to be done,” he said.

The two sides are trying to hammer out a deal ahead of the March 1 deadline when US tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports are scheduled to increase to 25 percent from 10 percent.

China’s Commerce Ministry said in a statement on Saturday that the two countries would have a “further deep discussion on issues of mutual concern” on the basis of what they talked about at the last round of talks in Washington. It gave no details.

China’s ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, said in Michigan on Friday that a “zero-sum game” mindset was destructive to China-US ties, the state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

Chinese and US companies should compete as well as cooperate with each other, Mr Cui said.

“The real story in business is not that black and white,” the report quoted him as saying.

Trump said on Thursday he did not plan to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping before that deadline, dampening hopes that a trade pact could be reached quickly.

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