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The U.S. government has proposed another round of trade talks with China to avoid further escalation in the countries' trade dispute, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Senior officials led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin recently extended the invitation to counterparts in China, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity. One of the sources said the talks, if agreed to by the Chinese, are likely to take place in Washington.

The Wall Street Journal reported the U.S. overture earlier Wednesday, citing anonymous sources.

The White House has sought to protect intellectual property rights of American companies and pressure China to reduce its trade surplus with the U.S. President Donald Trump's administration has already imposed duties on $50 billion of Chinese exports since July, which spurred immediate retaliation from Beijing.

Trump hasn't yet pulled the trigger on tariffs on an additional $200 billion in Chinese goods. A comment period for that round of tariffs expired last week without U.S. action. Trump said last week that he's lined up an additional $267 billion of Chinese products for duties "on short notice if I want to," which would cover virtually everything the country exports to the U.S., including consumer goods such as clothing and Apple smartphones.

China has said it would retaliate against all of the U.S.' measures, fanning concerns that the trade war could dent the global economic outlook.

Efforts to end the dispute have fizzled so far. Officials from both countries have met four times for formal talks, most recently in August, when the Treasury Department's undersecretary for international affairs, David Malpass, led discussions in Washington with Chinese Vice Minister Wang Shouwen.

But those talks ended without a breakthrough, as the U.S. submitted a tweaked list of demands that China had previously said was unworkable, including a condition that China reduce the trade surplus. Last week, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow complained that the Chinese have offered few concessions, and he underscored the president's willingness to hold firm, despite Trump's friendship with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

However, Kudlow did say that Trump would be open to meeting with Xi, possibly at a Group of 20 meeting in Argentina in late November.

Meanwhile, trade associations representing farmers, retailers, manufacturers and other industries are joining forces in a new multimillion-dollar campaign to oppose Trump's tariffs.

Groups lobbying for months to convince the president that tariffs are the wrong approach have been largely ignored. But a new coalition called Americans for Free Trade is joining Farmers for Free Trade, a nonprofit supported by major agricultural groups, in seeking to change the direction in Washington by highlighting stories of businesses, consumers and farmers negatively affected by the duties.

The groups announced the coalition Wednesday with a jointly funded campaign of more than $3 million, involving town-hall-style events in key congressional districts ahead of the midterm elections, as well as digital advertising and grass-roots outreach to Congress and the administration. More than 80 coalition members have signed a letter to all members of Congress asking for support in fighting the duties and providing oversight on trade-policy matters.

The idea is to amplify the stories of small businesses, consumers and industries hurt by the duties to show the administration that the short-term U.S. economic pain from tariffs and retaliation from other countries is not worth any long-term deal Trump hopes to strike using tariffs as leverage, coalition members said.

"The political calculus may lead the administration to think this is a winning hand," said Dean Garfield, chief executive of the Information Technology Industry Council, whose members include Apple, Google and Microsoft. "But if we can change the realities on the ground, then the administration may recalibrate."

Trump has acknowledged the effect of the duties -- especially China's retaliatory tariffs on soybeans and other U.S. agricultural products -- by offering $12 billion in assistance to farmers, a key part of his political base who helped him carry rural states in the 2016 presidential election.

The new campaign will show the damage the tariffs are having across the U.S. economy and the "real economic consequences for American families," said Brian Kuehl, executive director of Farmers for Free Trade.

The group is joining the new coalition, which formalizes a group of organizations and companies the National Retail Federation has helped lead. The coalition includes other large trade associations such as the Consumer Technology Association, American Petroleum Institute, American Apparel and Footwear Association, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Toy Association and National Fisheries Institute.

There are plans for kickoff events starting next week in Chicago; Nashville, Tenn.; Pennsylvania; and Ohio, with other events before the midterm elections "in key communities throughout the heartland," the groups said.

"Our motto right now is, 'Try everything,"' said Nicole Vasilaros, a senior vice president for the National Marine Manufacturers Association, a coalition member.

Information for this article was contributed by Andrew Mayeda of Bloomberg News.

Business on 09/13/2018

Print Headline: U.S. said to propose new China talks


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