As latest round of U.S.-China talks end, 'significant work' remains

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. and Chinese negotiators wrapped up their latest round of trade talks on Friday and were scheduled to resume discussions next week to try to secure a pact that would end a tit-for-tat tariff battle that has roiled global markets.

FILE PHOTO: Members of the U.S. trade delegation Robert Lighthizer and Steven Mnuchin arrive at a hotel in Beijing, China March 28, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

The two sides offered few details of the progress as Chinese Vice Premier Liu He concluded three days of meetings with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in Washington. U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday said a deal could be announced in the next four weeks.

Last year Washington and Beijing slapped import duties on each other’s products that cost the world’s two largest economies billions of dollars and disrupted manufacturing and supply chains. The United States is seeking reforms to Chinese practices that it says result in the theft of U.S. intellectual property and the forced transfer of technology from U.S. companies to Chinese firms.

“Significant work remains, and the principals, deputy ministers, and delegation members will be in continuous contact to resolve outstanding issues,” the office of the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) said in a statement.

Chinese state media said on Saturday that the two sides had made “new progress” in the talks.

The negotiations included intellectual property, or IP, forced technology transfer, non-tariff barriers, agriculture, services, purchases and enforcement, the USTR statement said.

White house adviser Larry Kudlow, speaking on Bloomberg Television earlier in the day, said Liu was due back in Beijing after Friday’s talks, but the two sides would press ahead to resolve remaining differences by video link.

“There’s no let-up here, this is an ongoing process,” Kudlow said.

Washington also has demanded that Beijing curb industrial subsidies, open its economy wider to U.S. companies, and increase purchases of U.S. goods including farm and energy commodities to shrink the gaping trade deficit with China.

“We are making headway in a lot of areas. That includes enforcement, that includes IP theft, that includes forced technology transfers, ownership, cyberspace, commodities and all the rest of it,” Kudlow said. “Those are of course in the middle of the negotiations that are ongoing, but we’ve come further and farther than ever before.”

While some reform pledges by Beijing are largely set, including an agreement to avoid currency manipulation, an enforcement mechanism to ensure that China keeps its pledges and the status of U.S. tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods must be resolved.

The plan to continue the discussions was taken as a positive sign.

“The fact that they’re still talking - and talking positively about the discussions - suggests they both think they’re on the path to a resolution,” said Erin Ennis, senior vice president of the U.S.-China Business Council, which represents U.S. firms doing business in China.

Reporting by David Lawder, Jason Lange and Chris Prentice in Washington; additional reporting by Yawen Chen and Tony Munroe in Beijing; Writing by David Lawder and Alexandra Alper; Editing by James Dalgleish, Susan Thomas, Leslie Adler and Peter Graff