China, U.S. discuss plans for trade talks amid break in tariff battle

China’s government says its economic czar and U.S. Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin have discussed plans for the next round of talks in a tariff battle following a temporary cease-fire.

The Commerce Ministry’s announcement Tuesday suggests negotiations are going ahead despite tension over the arrest of a Chinese technology executive. A ministry statement said Vice Premier Liu He and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin discussed “the promotion of the next economic and trade consultations” but gave no details.

The discussions reportedly touched on China’s purchases of agricultural goods and changes to China’s economic policies, including its Made in China 2025 plan, which seeks to promote the growth of tech industries such as robotics, according to The Wall Street Journal. 

World markets were mostly higher on Tuesday on hopes that the talks will resolve the trade dispute between the two economic powers. 

“While traders have responded positively to comments from China providing a semi-road map going forward, they are waiting for something concrete. Markets want to see a definite timeline against a backdrop of global risks,” Stephen Innes of OANDA said in a phone interview.

President Donald Trump agreed on Dec. 1 to postpone more U.S. tariff hikes on Chinese goods for 90 days while the two sides negotiate over American complaints about Beijing technology policy. The arrest in Canada last week of Huawei Technologies CFO Meng Wanzhou prompted worries those talks might be derailed.

China’s foreign minister has vowed to defend its citizens abroad as a Chinese technology executive waits to see whether a Canadian court will release her on bail in a case that has strained U.S.-Chinese relations.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Tuesday that Beijing will “spare no effort” to protect against “any bullying that infringes the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens.”

Wang didn’t mention the arrested Huawei Technologies Ltd. executive, Meng Wanzhou. But a ministry spokesman, Lu Kang, said Wang was referring to cases of all Chinese abroad, including Meng.

Meng was arrested Dec. 1 in Vancouver on U.S. charges related to possible violations of trade sanctions on Iran.

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