US hopes to narrow wide gap in China talks

Washington (AFP) –


US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Thursday he hopes to see progress to reduce large differences with China in trade talks where hundreds of billions of dollars in commerce are at stake.

"The gap is wide," Ross said in congressional testimony, a week after he led a delegation to Beijing to try to resolve the thorny dispute.

A high-level Chinese delegation will be coming to Washington next week, and "I'm hopeful we will make further progress with them," he said.

The US has threatened tariffs targeting $150 billion in imports, while China has warned $50 billion in goods are in the firing line.

Vice Premier Liu He -- considered Xi's right-hand man on economic issues -- is due in Washington next week after he led talks in Beijing last week with a high-level US delegation that made little headway in resolving the standoff.

Ross said the US officials presented a detailed list of requests for changes in China's trade policy "product by product and quantity by quantity." Agricultural goods -- which have been targeted for retaliation by Beijing -- figured prominently.

China "responded in kind" with a counterproposal, so the sides are now working on "a very specific set of bids and asks."

In response to a question from a senator, Ross said President Donald Trump has ordered the Agriculture Department to do all it can to minimize the impact of any tariffs.

"We're all well aware that it's horribly unfair for one industry to bear the brunt of retaliation in our efforts to help other parts of economy," Ross said.

"We'll do our level best to resolve the problem."

The US reportedly has demanded Beijing reduce the bilateral trade deficit by $200 billion a year.