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China, US open trade talks as Beijing says exports rebound

Robert Lighthizer-Liu He-Steven Mnuchin

U.S. and Chinese negotiators opened talks Thursday on a sprawling trade dispute as Beijing reported its January exports rebounded despite President Donald Trump’s tariff hikes.

Trump said earlier the talks could help decide whether he escalates the fight over China’s technology ambitions by going ahead with more penalty duties March 2 on $200 billion of Chinese goods.

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The battle between the two biggest economies has fueled fears it will drag on weakening global growth. China’s economy grew at its slowest pace in three-decades last year, adding to pressure on communist leaders to reach a settlement.

Both sides have expressed optimism but released no details. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and his Chinese counterpart, Vice Premier Liu He, shook hands at the start of the meeting at a government guesthouse but said nothing to reporters.

The U.S. delegation also includes Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and David Malpass, a Treasury undersecretary who is Trump’s nominee for World Bank president.

On Tuesday, Trump said that while he is not inclined to extend the deadline, he might let it “slide for a little while” if talks go well. Earlier, the White House called March 2 a “hard deadline.”

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