US Treasury Chief Steven Mnuchin ‘cautiously optimistic’ ahead of China trade talks

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American and Chinese officials will hold highly anticipated trade talks in China on Thursday and Friday, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Fox Business Network, saying he was “cautiously optimistic” about the meeting.

Mnuchin said in the interview that aired on Monday that American officials planned to raise intellectual property rights, joint technology and joint ventures with Chinese officials.

“We’re looking to have a very frank discussion on trade, on the issues of the trade imbalance,” he said.

China has said it is open to trade negotiations with the US after President Donald Trump proposed imposing tariffs on US$50 billion in Chinese exports and threatened additional tariffs on US$100 billion of goods. China, in response, said it will impose its own tariffs on American products.

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Asked about concerns over possible retaliatory measures by China, Mnuchin said: “It’s not a worry of mine,” adding that Trump was focused on “free and fair and reciprocal trade.”

The Treasury Secretary, who told the network that Chinese vice-premier Liu He would take part in the meeting, will by joined on the high-stakes visit by US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow.

Mnuchin added that Trump has not yet made a decision on whether any countries should get extended exemptions on steel and aluminium tariffs.

“The president has not made any decision yet,” Mnuchin said ahead of Tuesday’s tariff deadline.

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Trump imposed a 25 per cent tariff on steel imports and a 10 per cent tariff on aluminium in March, but granted temporary exemptions to certain countries. Those exemptions will expire on Tuesday.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in an interview with Bloomberg published on Sunday that the White House would continue to grant some countries relief from the metal tariffs, although he declined to name the nations.

Ross also indicated that the White House had asked countries to accept import quotas in return for exemptions from the tariffs.

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