China tells U.S. trade representative stronger cooperation needed

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s commerce minister Zhong Shan told new United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer the two sides should strengthen cooperation and manage disputes in trade, according to a statement on the website of China’s Ministry of Commerce on Monday.

The two met on Sunday on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

Lighthizer said in the meeting with Zhong Shan that trade wars are not in the interest of either country, according to the statement from China’s commerce ministry.

Disagreements over global trade negotiations came to the fore at the APEC forum, which failed to agree on its usual joint statement after U.S. opposition to wording on fighting protectionism.

With the U.S. balking at multilateral trade agreements, Asian trade ministers met to discuss the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which would create a free trade area of more than 3.5 billion people, bringing together China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand as well as Southeast Asian nations.

RCEP talks include the largest geographic area, the most dynamic economies, and the largest population of any regional trade pact, Zhong said, according to a statement on the website of the ministry of commerce.

He said RCEP parties should accelerate RCEP talks and that all sides should show more flexibility to overcome differences.

Reporting by Beijing Monitoring Desk and Elias Glenn; Editing by Shri Navaratnam