China has received information that U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is considering a trip to Beijing to hold talks on the ongoing trade dispute, the Ministry of Commerce said in a brief statement on Sunday.
The statement quoted a ministry spokesperson saying China welcomes this development.
Experts said that although the move may seem positive, China must prepare for countermeasures if both sides fail to reach consensus because policies made by the Trump administration lack consistency.
Mnuchin said at a news conference at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank spring meetings in Washington on Saturday that he wanted to meet with his Chinese counterparts to try to resolve the trade differences, and said he may travel to China.
As the midterm congressional elections approach in the United States, the Trump administration needs something eye-catching to regain support before the vote and to please giant companies like Boeing and General Motors and agricultural concerns like the American Soybean Association, said Tu Xinquan, director of the China Institute for WTO Studies at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.
Under such circumstances, Tu said, Mnuchin's possible visit to Beijing can be seen as a gesture, whether successful or not, the Trump administration has to take action to prevent rising prices of consumer goods and revenue losses by a large number of U.S. companies dependent on trade with China.
"Soon after Trump announced the latest tariff proposal, many U.S. officials and economists mentioned the possibility of negotiations. They were trying to pacify the markets and prevent U.S. stock prices from falling further," said Mei Xinyu, a senior research fellow of the Commerce Ministry's Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.
Mei said China can conduct negotiations with the U.S. under World Trade Organization rules, and on the other hand prepare measures to firmly fight back the unilateral and unfair trade moves if both sides failed to reach deals via talks.
"China's move can follow the principle of a precision strike. It must take measures to deal a blow to the industries in many U.S. states that helped Trump win the 2016 presidential election and those states whose political leaders are still backing him in this year's midterm elections," he said.
"The trade dispute is not between China and the U.S. people, but between China and Trump's protectionist-minded administration."
The International Monetary Fund warned on Thursday that trade tensions between the U.S. and China and some other countries could erode the confidence that is vital for global growth.
Because the world is so interconnected, the supply chains involve so many countries that it would affect the global economy, the IMF has said.