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US Serves China With List of Trade Demands for Ongoing Talks

The U.S. and China are said to have reached agreement on some issues in their economic and trade consultations in Beijing on Thursday and Friday, and the two sides have agreed to set up a method for ongoing communication.

The U.S. also gave China a comprehensive list of demands on trade as part of the talks, including cutting the trade imbalance between the two nations by $200 billion and stopping Chinese government support for advanced technologies, The Wall Street Journal reported, noting that Chinese officials called these requests “unfair.”

The wide-ranging demands from the U.S. also included a slashing of tariffs on imports of U.S. products and a promise from China that it wouldn’t retaliate against U.S. penalties and trade restrictions, the Wall Street Journal reported, noting that the demands were contained in a document it reviewed, which was given to Chinese officials ahead of their trade talks.

China’s Xinhua news reported Friday that Chinese Vice Premier Liu He held “candid, efficient and constructive talks” with the U.S. delegation led by the president’s special envoy and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, on economic and trade issues of common concern.

The two sides agreed that a “sound and stable” China-U.S. trade relationship is crucial for both nations, and they are committed to resolving relevant economic and trade issues through dialogue and consultation, the Chinese news agency said.

Among the issues Xinhua said were discussed were increasing U.S. exports to China, bilateral service trade, two-way investment, protection of intellectual property rights, and resolving tariff and non-tariff issues.

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The talks, which also included U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, came after weeks of ping-ponging threats and pronouncements of tariffs and other trade penalties that has sent fear of a trade war into business and political circles.

A coalition of retailers, manufacturers, farmers, tech companies, imports, exporters and other stakeholders sent a letter to the members of Congress asking them to urge the White House to “quickly mitigate” the current trade situation between the U.S. and China before things get worse.

“We agree that China’s ongoing intellectual property rights violations, forced technology transfers and state interventions harm U.S. companies, workers, consumers and our competitiveness,” the group of 107 organizations, including the American Apparel & Footwear Association, National Retail Federation and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, wrote in the letter. “We are concerned that the proposed tariff list, and escalating tariff threats made by the administration, however, will not effectively advance our shared goal of changing these harmful Chinese practices.”

There was no word from U.S. officials on Friday after conclusion of the talks, which were approved by President Trump to see if Beijing was willing to make significant changes in policy. The U.S. delegation was reported to have left Beijing late Friday without holding a press briefing or releasing any statement.

The document containing U.S. demands described the U.S.-China trade relationship as “significantly imbalanced,” according to The Wall Street Journal, and noted that U.S. investment and sales of services into China remain “severely constrained” while China’s industrial policies continue to threaten the U.S. economy.

Before leaving for Beijing on Tuesday, Lighthizer told reporters said that the U.S. wasn’t looking to change China’s system but to make sure the U.S. wasn’t a “victim” of it. However, demands the U.S. reportedly laid out in the document appear to indicate otherwise.

The top U.S. request calls for China to reduce the bilateral trade deficit by at least $200 billion by the end of 2020. The U.S.-China bilateral deficit in goods was $375 billion last year and President Trump has repeatedly said he wants China to slash the figure by $100 billion a year.

The U.S. also demanded that China immediately stop providing subsidies and other assistance for advanced technologies outlined in the government’s Made in China 2025 plan, which sets China up to make major investments in new technologies and in areas like robotics, aviation and new-energy vehicles.

Following pushback from farmers over the tariff wars, Trump has been reiterating a promise to protect them. According to the Journal, the U.S. demands included an agreement that Beijing wouldn’t target U.S. farmers or agricultural products in its trade plans.

After China announced it would target 106 U.S. products with 25 percent tariffs, including cotton, the National Cotton Council of America said the proposed higher tariffs on raw cotton could undermine U.S. cotton trade with the country and “significantly” harm the health of the domestic sector.

“I cannot overstate the importance of China’s market to U.S. cotton farmers and the importance of U.S. cotton in meeting the needs of China’s textile industry,” NCC chairman Ron Craft said at the time. “The U.S. cotton industry stands ready to assist the U.S. government and our trading partners in China to find a resolution to this damaging trade dispute.”

In the past few months, the Trump administration has imposed tariffs on Chinese solar panels, steel and aluminum and has threatened levies on as much as $150 billion in Chinese imports and restrictions on Chinese investments in the U.S. in a dispute about intellectual property rights.

According to the document delivered in Beijing, the U.S. asked China not to “oppose, challenge or otherwise retaliate” against its imposition of restrictions on Chinese investments, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Last month, China responded with its own tariffs and proposed penalties on U.S. goods, including farm products, autos and airplanes.