Key figures in US-China trade talks

Washington (AFP) –


The next round of US-China trade talks will resume Wednesday and Thursday in Washington to try to find a way out of the tariff battle between the two powers.

Here is a look at all the presidents' negotiators representing Xi Jinping and Donald Trump:

- China's economic pilot Liu He -

Liu He, 67, leads the Chinese negotiating team. An influential economic adviser to Beijing since Xi came to power, Liu emerged from the shadows in February 2018 when he was sent to Washington to try to avert the trade war with Trump. He then was appointed to the post of vice premier in March, responsible for steering Chinese economic policy.

His profile contrasts with the usual resume of a top Chinese official: he is an economist who graduated from the prestigious US university Harvard.

Seen as pragmatic, Liu is considered the leader of the recent movement towards rebalancing the Chinese economy to rely on domestic consumption, services and technological innovation for growth rather than exports.

- Yi Gang, reformist central banker -

Yi Gang, 60, governor of the People's Bank of China (PBOC), is a prominent member of the delegation. Yi, who speaks English fluently, spent 15 years in the United States, where he earned a PhD in economics from the University of Illinois and then taught at a US college.

He joined the Chinese central bank in 1997, becoming deputy governor in 2008, before taking the top leadership role last year -- a post under tight government control.

Associated in recent years with the gradual liberalization of lending rates and the easing of the tight yuan exchange rate, Yi is distinguished by his statements very favorable to the free market, even defending increased openness to foreign investors.

- Robert Lighthizer, Trump's trade adviser -

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, 71, is leading the American negotiating team, taking over from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who did not deliver on a breakthrough.

Lighthizer stays out of the limelight but shares President Donald Trump's mistrust of China and believes it poses a threat to US economic power. And he has emerged as the US strongman in the ongoing trade negotiations, determined to force changes in Beijing's economic policies.

He led the contentious talks to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico, now dubbed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA.

His goal in the talks is to force the Asian giant to put an end to trade policies the US deems "unfair," especially the theft or forced transfer of American technology, obliging US firms to form joint ventures with local partners, and state subsidies for industry.

Prior to being named US Trade Representative in May 2017, Lighthizer was a specialist in international trade law for more than 30 years and is a veteran of trade negotiations with Japan in the 1980s.

- Peter Navarro, hardline anti-China voice -

Peter Navarro, 69, a Harvard-trained economist has long railed against the threat from Beijing. He has advised Trump since his upstart presidential campaign, after he gained Trump's attention with his 2011 book "Death by China" painting the country as a serial trade cheater, subsidizing export-oriented industries and manipulating its currency.

He pushed Trump to renegotiate NAFTA and vigorously defended the punitive tariffs imposed on US imports of steel and aluminum, a protectionist measure that prompted the departure of Trump's former chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, who was more pragmatic than dogmatic and highly respected by financial markets.

At the end of 2016, Donald Trump appointed Navarro as head of the newly-created White House National Trade Council.

However, his outspoken comments in previous meetings and reports that he sparred with other US officials, caused him to be left on the sidelines of some talks.

- Steven Mnuchin, more moderate? -

In the spring of 2018, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin led the US delegation sent to Beijing to advance trade negotiations -- but with little success. His influence in the talks seems to have decreased significantly since then.

Seen as counter-balancing Navarro's hardline stance, this former Goldman Sachs executive, 56, supports free trade and offers a more moderate voice on China.

He said Tuesday he expected "significant progress" at this week's talks.