US officials will look for steps by China to open markets

WASHINGTON: US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said they will be looking for specific, “concrete” agreements from Beijing to increase US access to China’s growing consumer markets in bilateral economic talks on Wednesday.
At a business lunch on Tuesday, Mnuchin said he hoped China would lift foreign ownership restrictions in its financial services sector to allow more US participation and remove barriers to trade in its information and communication technology sector.
“My hope is that we can increase our focus on concrete and targeted commitments to address both short-term and long-term strategic challenges,” Mnuchin said at the luncheon of mainly business executives with China ties.
Ross said some initial deals announced in April, as part of a 100-day economic plan aimed at reducing the US trade deficit with China, were a “good start.” These include the sale of US beef in China for the first time in 14 years and commitments to open up narrow areas of China’s financial services sector, such as credit card services and credit ratings agencies.
Some of these agreements are yet to be implemented, and there has been little evidence of progress on thornier issues, such as excess capacity in China’s steel and aluminium sectors.
A looming Trump administration decision on whether to impose broad steel tariffs based on national security concerns is casting a cloud of uncertainty over the talks, which have been rebranded this year as the “US-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue” Ross acknowledged that the dialogue has become more challenging as US and Chinese officials grapple with more sensitive issues.
“Our objective, however, will continue to be specific deliverables by specific dates so that everyone on both sides can measure the results on a continuing basis,” he said.
China trade experts said they expect new announcements on small openings of China’s markets or specific purchases of US goods, but these will not substantially alter the bilateral economic relationship. — Reuters