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U.S., China Seek to Restart Talks to Defuse Trade War, Sources Say

The U.S. and China are trying to restart talks aimed at averting a full-blown trade war between the world’s two largest economies, two people familiar with the effort said.

Representatives of U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He are having private conversations as they look for ways to re-engage in negotiations, according to the people who spoke about the deliberations on condition of anonymity..

Negotiations to resolve the dispute have been stalled for weeks, with both sides refusing to budge.

Complicating Mnuchin’s efforts is a harder line taken by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who has jurisdiction over the U.S.’s 301 investigation that sparked the tariffs. That case concluded China was stealing American technology and tariffs were needed to offset the damage.

Lighthizer said last week that trade tensions with China are a “chronic problem,” while China’s representative at the World Trade Organization accused the U.S. of “extortion.”

The two sides held three rounds of formal talks, beginning with a delegation to Beijing led by Mnuchin in May. After Liu visited Washington later that month, the nations released a joint statement pledging to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with China, among other things. But within days, President Donald Trump himself backed away from the deal, saying talks would “probably have to use a different structure.”

Talks broke off after the Trump administration imposed tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese imports this month, a move the Chinese said would void any promises they’d made in negotiations. Beijing responded in kind with its own tariffs.

Trump’s mission to reduce the U.S. trade deficit via the threat of tariffs has brought him into conflict with China as well as U.S. allies, roiling financial markets and raising fears of a global trade war the International Monetary Fund has warned may undermine the strongest economic upswing in years.

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