Liu He during a trade talk meeting at the White House on Jan. 31. (Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg)

Chinese Negotiators Head Back to Washington for More Talks

(Bloomberg) -- Chinese and U.S. trade negotiators will start the next round of talks this week in Washington, after discussions in Beijing last week that President Donald Trump called "very productive."

The talks will begin on Tuesday, White House Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said, with Vice Premier Liu He then meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Feb. 21-22, according to a statement from China’s Commerce Ministry.

The talks are picking up pace as the March 1 deadline approaches, Steve Censky, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s deputy secretary said, "but we still have ways to go."

Trump has said he’s open to pushing back that deadline. He’s considering a 60-day extension for negotiations, people familiar with the matter said last week. There were still key differences in the positions of both sides at the end of last week and the threat of further escalation in the trade war if talks fail is adding to uncertainty for the global economy.

The two nations’ presidents agreed on the current truce when they met in December, and it may take another meeting to finalize any deal. Trump has indicated he will need to meet with President Xi Jinping to agree on a final deal, and while no date has been set, a White House aide last week said the U.S. president still wants to meet with his Chinese counterpart soon in a bid to end the trade war.

"Both sides sound positive and they’ve accelerated the speed of the talks, which shows that some kind of agreement is likely. Otherwise they don’t need to keep talking," said He Weiwen, a former commerce ministry official and now a senior fellow at the Center for China and Globalization, an independent research group. "There are many problems for sure, but I’d expect an outcome at this stage."

Any agreement would be unlikely to solve all problems, according to He, but even a memorandum of understanding would be positive as it would create a precedent of discussing issues rather than fighting about them.

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