U.S.-China trade talks opened Monday in Beijing, with negotiators for the world’s two biggest economies trying to resolve tariff disputes that have roiled world markets in recent weeks.
U.S. and Chinese officials expressed optimism before the two day talks, but Beijing at the same time complained about the sighting of the U.S.S. McCampbell destroyer in what it said were Chinese waters near disputed islands in the South China Sea.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China had made “stern complaints” with the United States about the sighting of the warship, but the trade talks went ahead.
There was no immediate U.S. response to the Chinese complaint.
The trade talks are the result of an agreement last month between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping to halt the tit-for-tat tariff conflict between the two countries for 90 days starting on New Year’s Day. Last year, Trump imposed tariff hikes of up to 25 percent on $250 billion of Chinese goods, with China retaliating with its own tariff increases on $110 billion of U.S. exports.
Trump said last week, “I think we’ll have a deal with China.”
Lu said the two countries have agreed to hold “positive and constructive” discussions.
“From the beginning we have believed that China U.S. trade friction is not a positive situation for either country or the world economy,” Lu said. “China has the good faith, on the basis of mutual respect and equality, to resolve the bilateral trade frictions.”
The talks are occurring as Chinese growth – 6.5 percent in the July-to-September period – fell to its lowest point in a decade. There are concerns that U.S. growth, 3.4 percent in the third quarter, could also be slowing even as the country’s unemployment rate remains nearly at a five-decade low.
Even so, Lu said, “China’s development has ample tenacity and huge potential. We have firm confidence in the strong long-term fundamentals of the Chinese economy.”
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross told CNBC the United States and China are likely to reach a settlement over the immediate trade issues, but that agreement on thornier disputes involving structural economic issues between the two countries could prove more difficult.
The United States has long complained about access to the vast Chinese market and Beijing’s demands U.S. companies reveal their technology advances.