Tuesday, 19 November, 2019

How China's trade mission flew into storm over Huawei

Investors look ahead to a week of crucial events including high-level trade talks between China and US Investors look ahead to a week of crucial events including high-level trade talks between China and US
Russell Knight | 30 January, 2019, 18:38

As officials touched down on Monday ready for the latest attempt to defuse President Trump's acrimonious trade war with Beijing, there was no fanfare or opulent welcome ceremony.

Trump has threatened to raise tariffs on $200 billion to 25 percent from 10 percent on March 2 if an agreement can not be reached.

The administration has imposed tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese imports; Beijing has retaliated with import taxes on $110 billion in USA goods.

Beijing's trade envoy, Vice-Premier Liu He, will lead a 30-person delegation at the invitation of US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who is heading the American effort. Perhaps the best that might be hoped for, analysts say, is for the two sides to agree to keep talking. He has also threatened new tariffs on the remainder of Chinese goods shipped to the United States.

There were also questions about whether imported cars were eligible for tax breaks and scrappage schemes and whether imported goods were eligible for a Chinese fund for promoting energy saving products. They have emphasized steps already taken, including reduced automotive tariffs and a draft foreign investment law that improves access for foreign firms and promises to outlaw "administrative means to force the transfer of technology".

The need to make any agreement enforceable was "obvious", he said.

- 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion worth of USA goods including soybeans, beef, pork, seafood, vegetables, whiskey, ethanol, imposed July 6 and August 23 in retaliation for initial rounds of US tariffs.

Some business groups watching the talks were tempering expectations for a breakthrough this week.

"We are anticipating no big outcomes this week", said Erin Ennis, senior vice president at the U.S.

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"I don't think there's going to be any big outcome", Ennis said of the talks scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. "My expectation is that we will make significant progress".

The Trump administration confirmed it will hold two days of talks this week in Washington to discuss structural changes to China's economy and Beijing's pledge to buy more American goods. But here, too, there are "no guarantees" that Beijing would follow through on these pledges, one of the people said.

The U.S. Justice Department on Monday unsealed indictments against China's top telecommunications equipment maker, Huawei Technologies Co, accusing it of bank and wire fraud to evade Iran sanctions and conspiring to steal trade secrets from T-Mobile US Inc. "We expect when we get a deal, that that deal will be enforced", he said.

United States officials insist that the Huawei case is entirely separate from the trade negotiations.

Meanwhile, earnings warnings from U.S. companies hit by the slowdown in China's economy - due in part to the tariffs - are piling up.

Further complicating matters, China triggered the legal process on Monday for the World Trade Organization to hear Beijing's challenge to US tariffs, and berated the United States for blocking the appointment of judges who could rule on it.

The losses came as shares of Caterpillar and Nvidia Corp nosedived after the two manufacturers joined a growing list of companies cautioning about the crippling effects of softening Chinese demand.

"Slowdown is feeding into some acute areas of economic unease", U.S. investment bank Citi said in a note, citing recent disappointing factory output data out of Europe and China.

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