talks-official@ (Adds Navarro excluded from talks, U.S. lawmakers on Liu)
WASHINGTON, May 16 (Reuters) - The White House's harshest China critic, Peter Navarro, will not be one of the principal American officials at U.S.-China trade talks that get under way in Washington on Thursday, a senior U.S. official said on Wednesday.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will lead the U.S. delegation in talks with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, a second U.S. official said. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity.
In addition to Navarro, senior American officials who will be participating include National Economic Council Chair Larry Kudlow and trade adviser Everett Eissenstat, the second official said.
Navarro, the White House trade and manufacturing adviser, attended an initial round of trade talks two weeks ago in Beijing. The author of a controversial book and film, "Death by China," he has been a key architect of Republican President Donald Trump's tougher stance on China trade and has advocated punitive tariffs on Chinese goods.
Ahead of the meetings, Liu, who is China's top economic official, told U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday that he would work hard to address the U.S.-China trade imbalance and other problems with the trading relationship.
Members of the trade- and tax-focused U.S. House of Representatives' Ways and Means Committee said after meeting with Liu that they emphasized the need to address U.S. concerns about intellectual property, forced technology transfers, barriers to investment in China and agricultural trade,
Representative Kevin Brady, the committee's Republican chairman, said he aired those concerns at the meeting and urged Liu to keep working with the administration toward a solution.
"He recognizes there are problems in this trade relationship," Brady said of Liu after the meeting. "And his hope for this trip was to begin to address the trade imbalance, increasing demand of Chinese consumers for U.S. products, as well as to begin to take steps on the structural reforms."
Liu left the meeting with several other Chinese officials without speaking to reporters.
The U.S. congressmen said that formal talks with the administration were due to begin on Thursday.
Representative Richard Neal, the Ways and Means panel's top Democrat, said Liu made no promises, but pledged to "work hard" on improving trade relations. Liu frequently addressed lawmakers' concerns by saying that China was in the middle of an effort to reform its economy and open it up to more foreign competition.
"They are certainly mindful of impending threats of tariffs," Neal said.
NO DISCUSSIONS ON ZTE
The lawmakers said the meeting did not address Trump's pledge on Sunday to help Chinese telecommunications equipment maker ZTE Corp get back in business after a Commerce Department ban cut off its supply of U.S. components.
Trump said in tweets on Wednesday that "nothing has happened" with China's ZTE Corp and that Beijing has "much to give" Washington on trade, denying suggestions that his administration was "folding" in negotiations with Beijing.
Trump on Monday had defended his decision to revisit penalties on ZTE for flouting U.S. sanctions on trade with Iran, in part by saying it was reflective of the larger trade deal the United States is negotiating with China.
"Nothing has happened with ZTE except as it pertains to the larger trade deal," Trump wrote on Twitter.
"We have not seen Chinas demands yet, which should be few in that previous U.S. Administrations have done so poorly in negotiating. The U.S. has very little to give, because it has given so much over the years. China has much to give!"
U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday rejected any plan by Trump to ease restrictions on ZTE, calling the company a security threat and vowing not to abandon the Commerce Department ruling banning sales of American components and software to the company for violating terms of a sanctions settlement deal.
The ban has caused ZTE to cease operations, and Trump on Sunday tweeted that he had instructed the Commerce Department to take steps that would restore ZTE's ability to operate.
Trump tweeted on Wednesday: "There has been no folding as the media would love people to believe, the meetings haven't even started yet!" (Reporting by Doina Chiacu and David Lawder; editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Susan Thomas and Jonathan Oatis)