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Stakes are high as US ups the ante on trade dispute with China

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13.05.2019

The Chinese have a saying attributed to the philosopher and writer Lao Tzu: every journey begins with a single step.

If that is the case, US-China relations have taken a step backwards in negotiators’ failure to advance trade negotiations in the latest round of talks in Washington, which ended unsatisfactorily.

China has said it is willing to resume discussions. The US has sent mixed messages, including a series of bombastic tweets from President Donald Trump warning of a worse deal if an agreement is not reached before the next presidential election.

Washington responded to the inability of the two sides to bridge their differences by raising tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese imports to 25% from 10% already imposed.

The administration has threatened to extend tariff increases to virtually all Chinese imports. This would likely prompt a trade war.

Sharp differences remain over the wording of the trade agreement itself. Beijing regards the language as too harsh on intellectual property and trade secrets theft, forced technology transfers, competition policy, access to financial services, and currency manipulation.

China appears to have hardened its position on some of these issues in the course of the negotiations, after having earlier indicated more flexibility.

This does not augur well for an early resolution.

The US has also clearly resolved to increase pressure on China on other fronts, in what risks becoming deepening differences on a range of issues.

As trade negotiators convened in Washington two US warships sailed near disputed islands and island features claimed by China in the South China Sea. This is the third time this year the US has conducted freedom of navigation operations next to........

© The Conversation