China and the United States will hold their eighth round of high-level economic and trade consultations in Beijing on Friday, with "much work" remaining to be done, the Ministry of Commerce said.
Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said on Thursday that the two nations have made some progress through recent phone discussions between Vice-Premier Liu He and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. "But there remains much work to be done," he said.
To iron out differences over certain economic and trade issues, China and the U.S. have been intensifying their consultations. Next week, Liu will visit Washington for the ninth round of talks.
Negotiators from both sides are striving to implement consensuses reached between the countries' leaders in December, Gao said at a regular news conference.
"Cooperation is the best choice for China and the U.S.," Gao said. "This is not only beneficial to the two countries and their peoples, but also conducive to the entire world."
The words came as the U.S. Department of Commerce reported that the U.S. trade deficit with China narrowed by 6.4 percent to $34.5 billion in January. U.S. goods exports to China dropped 22.3 percent to $7.1 billion, the lowest since September 2010, and Chinese imports dropped 9.6 percent to $41.6 billion, the Commerce Department said.
The trade imbalance has been at the center of monthslong tensions between China and the U.S.. Other issues at the top of the list for their consultations include technology transfers and protection of intellectual property rights.
Gao said guaranteeing that companies can pursue technical cooperation based on voluntary principles and business rules is conducive to creating a fair and competitive business environment and promoting high-quality economic development.
"It is in line with China's need to further deepen reform and opening up," he said.
"The Chinese government has never imposed any policy to force foreign companies to transfer their technology," Gao added, saying that the country's Foreign Investment Law bars forced technology transfers.
The newly passed law, approved this month and set to take effect in January, stipulates that China will treat foreign and Chinese enterprises equally and protect their intellectual property rights. Under the law, foreign enterprises will receive pre-establishment national treatment, in addition to a negative list system for market access.
A negative list shows areas where investment is limited or prohibited for foreign investors, with all other areas presumed to be open.
Gao said the ministry is working with relevant departments to conduct research on shortening the negative list for market access.