China sends trade envoy to US, welcomes Trump ZTE comments

FILE - In this Oct. 8, 2012, file photo, a salesperson stands at counters selling mobile phones produced by ZTE Corp. at an appliance store in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province. President Donald Trump's weekend social media musings about China injected new uncertainty into the Washington's punishment of Chinese tech giant ZTE and planned trade talks between the two countries. (Chinatopix via AP, File)

China is sending a special envoy to the U.S. for talks on trade issues amid a simmering dispute

BEIJING — China said Monday it is sending an envoy to the United States this week for talks aimed at cooling a trade dispute that threatens to upend markets from soybeans to steel, and welcomed comments by President Donald Trump hinting at a possible easing of sanctions on embattled Chinese telecoms firm ZTE.

The foreign ministry said Vice Premier Liu He will visit the U.S. from Tuesday to Saturday for consultations with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

Ministry spokesman Lu Kang also said China appreciated tweets by Trump saying he would help ZTE Corp. get "back into business" because too many jobs in China are at stake after the U.S. government cut off access to ZTE's American suppliers.

"We think highly of the U.S. statement regarding ZTE's case. We are currently in close communication over details of the implementation," Lu told reporters at a daily news briefing.

Referring to Liu's visit, Lu said China was willing to work with the U.S. to "strive for positive and constructive outcomes from the next round of economic and trade discussions."

Partially state-owned ZTE makes cellphones, network switching equipment and other telecommunications equipment. Last month, the U.S. Commerce Department banned it from buying U.S. technology or components for seven years after it misled regulators by failing to discipline employees involved in illegal exports and instead paid them bonuses.

Liu's trip to Washington follows a visit by Mnuchin and other U.S. officials to Beijing earlier this month, where they conveyed a demand that China slash its trade surplus with the U.S. by $200 billion by the end of 2020.

An intensifying rivalry over advanced technology has also fueled demands by Washington that China give up policies that favor domestic companies. Beijing considers such programs as fundamental to its state-driven economic model and vital for its future growth.

America's trade deficit with China amounted last year to $337 billion in goods and services.

The intensifying trade dispute has rattled financial markets for weeks. In March, the Trump administration slapped tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. China counterpunched with tariffs on a range of U.S. products, including bourbon and blue jeans.

An even higher-stakes fight looms over American allegations that China steals technology and forces U.S. companies to hand over trade secrets in exchange for access to the Chinese market. The United States is considering imposing tariffs on up to $150 billion of Chinese products, and Beijing has countered with proposed tariffs on $50 billion in American goods, including soybeans and small aircraft.

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