China says trade talks with US set foundation to resolve concerns

Issues like forced tech transfers and IP rights discussed at Beijing meeting

BEIJING/SHANGHAI: China and the United States made progress on "structural issues" such as forced technology transfers and intellectual property rights in talks this week and more consultations are being arranged, China's commerce ministry said yesterday.

The three-day talks in Beijing that wrapped up on Wednesday were the first face-to-face negotiations since US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping met in Buenos Aires last month and agreed on a 90-day truce in a trade war that has disrupted the flow of hundreds of billions of dollars of goods.

The negotiations were initially scheduled to last two days but went on for three because both sides were "serious" and "honest", the ministry's spokesman Gao Feng told a news conference.

Asked about China's stance on issues such as forced technology transfers, intellectual property rights, tariff barriers and cyber attacks, and whether China was confident it could reach agreement with the US, he said those issues "were an important part of this trade talk".

"There has been progress in these areas," he added. He did not elaborate.

The US has presented China with a long list of demands that would rewrite the terms of trade between the world's two largest economies.

They include changes to China's policies on intellectual property protection, technology transfers, industrial subsidies and other non-tariff barriers to trade.

Nearly halfway into the 90-day truce, there have been few concrete details on any progress made.

Mr Gao did not address questions on what demands both sides raised, or if the US had agreed to drop its plan to implement additional tariffs by the March 2 deadline.

At stake are scheduled US tariff increases on US$200 billion (S$270 billion) worth of Chinese imports.

In a brief statement earlier, the ministry said the talks were extensive, and helped establish a foundation for the resolution of each others' concerns, but gave no details.

On Wednesday, the US Trade Representative's office said officials from the two sides discussed "ways to achieve fairness, reciprocity and balance in trade relations", and focused on China's pledge to buy a substantial amount of agricultural, energy, manufactured, and other products and services from the United States".

No schedule for further face-to-face negotiations was released after the talks.

"For the next step, work teams from both sides will continue to work hard and push forward consultations as originally planned," Mr Gao said.

The US China Business Council, which represents American companies working in China, applauded the "substantive discussions" but urged both sides to make tangible progress on achieving equal treatment of foreign companies in China and changes to policies aimed at technology transfer. - REUTERS