Robert Lighthizer, the US trade representative, said Washington was “ready to engage” with Beijing ahead of a high-stakes meeting between Donald Trump, the US president, and Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, at the G20 summit in Osaka, adding that there was a shared goal to “resolve” the trade dispute.
In congressional testimony on Tuesday, Mr Lighthizer said he had set up a “conversation” with his Chinese counterpart this week, to set the stage for the summit. Mr Lighthizer and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, would then be meeting with Chinese officials in Japan to set the stage for the summit, he said.
“It’s in the interest of both China and the US to have some kind of a successful agreement, the president has said he definitely wants an agreement if we get a great agreement for America,” Mr Lighthizer said.
While he did not specify who he would be talking to in Beijing ahead of the summit, Mr Lighthizer and Mr Mnuchin have mainly been negotiating with Liu He, the Chinese vice-premier.
The resumption of trade discussions between the US and China follows a six-week break during which the two sides escalated tariffs and extended their economic confrontation to other areas, including export controls on sensitive technologies. The prospect of ever-increasing levies and a decoupling of the world’s two largest economies had spooked many businesses on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, leading many to consider shifting their supply chains.
Mr Trump continued to dangle the possibility of a thaw at the G20 summit in Osaka late next week, and on Tuesday he spoke directly to Mr Xi to confirm that a bilateral meeting would take place.
“Had a very good telephone conversation with President Xi of China. We will be having an extended meeting next week at the G-20 in Japan. Our respective teams will begin talks prior to our meeting,” Mr Trump tweeted on Tuesday.