US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin (L) and Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang pose for a photo before an opening session at a US and China comprehensive Economic Dialogue at the US Department of the Treasury July 19, 2017 in Washington, DC. After riding a wave of anti-trade feeling to the White House, the Trump administration is taking a more traditional approach to resolving issues with China: a formal structure of talks that makes gradual, sometimes glacial progress. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski

WASHINGTON: The US launched its first round of trade talks with China since Donald Trump took office in an unusually blunt manner yesterday, demanding more "fair, equitable and reciprocal" relationship, with more access to American made goods and services.


Noting the more than 200 percent surge in Chinese exports to the United States in the last 15 years, creating a trade deficit of $309 billion last year, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross insisted change was necessary. "If this were just the natural product of free market forces, we could understand it, but it's not," Ross said in the opening ceremony of the one-day meeting between the world's top two economies.


"So it is time to rebalance our trade and investment relationship in a more fair, equitable and reciprocal manner." The talks are a continuation of the process undertaken by the previous two administrations, which the Trump administration has rebranded as the US-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue (CED).


Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the talks with the Chinese delegation led by Vice Premier Wang Yang would focus on concrete steps to provide greater access and a "level playing field" for US companies to the world's second largest market. "We need to work together to maximize the benefit for both sides. But this is only possible if there is a more fair and balanced economic relationship between the US and China," Mnuchin said.


"It means addressing the imbalances cause by the Chinese intervention in its economy," he said, adding: "A more balanced economic relationship will create prosperity for our two countries and the world." During his campaign, Trump attacked China for unfair trade practices, but his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Florida resort in April prompted a change of rhetoric and the launch of a 100-day economic cooperation plan.


That led to specific but narrow achievements, including opening the Chinese market to US beef exports, and pledges to remove barriers to US credit card transactions, credit ratings, and other financial services, including bond underwriting, that were to be concluded prior to Wednesday's talks.


Wang said the key point about the meeting is the two countries are "having dialogue, not confrontation."  "We don't need to defeat each other in handling differences," he cautioned, stressing that "confrontation will immediately damage the interests of both" countries.


Wang quoted a passage from Trump's 2009 business advice book "Think Like a Champion"-which in turn was quoting industry pioneer Henry Ford-saying, "Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success." "China is ready to work together." - AFP