U.S. officials expect China's top trade negotiator may visit Washington this month, signaling that higher-level discussions are likely to follow this week's talks with mid-level officials in Beijing as the world's two largest economies try to hammer out a deal to end a tit-for-tat tariff war.
"The current intent is that the Vice Premier Liu He will most likely come and visit us later in the month and I would expect the government shutdown would have no impact," U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters on Thursday in Washington. "We will continue with those meetings just as we sent a delegation to China."
The U.S. government is in the 20th day of a partial shutdown with President Donald Trump, a Republican, and congressional Democrats feuding over funding and Trump's desire for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
People familiar with the talks in Beijing said on Thursday that hopes were mounting that Liu would continue talks with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Mnuchin.
Talks at that level are viewed as important for making the key decisions to ease a festering trade war, which has disrupted trade flows for hundreds of billions of dollars worth of goods and roiled global markets.
Trump has demanded better terms of trade with China, with the United States pressing Beijing to address issues that would require structural change such as intellectual property theft, forced technology transfers and other non-tariff barriers.
Trump on Thursday said the United States was having "tremendous success" in its trade negotiations with China.
A spokeswoman for Lighthizer's office declined to comment.
More than halfway through a 90-day truce in the U.S.-China trade war agreed on Dec. 1 when Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping met at the G20 summit in Argentina, there have been few details provided of any progress made.
Trump has vowed to increase tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports on March 2 if China fails to take steps to protect U.S. intellectual property, end policies that force American companies to turn over technology to a Chinese partner, allow more market access for U.S. businesses and reduce other non-tariff barriers to American products.
The timeline is seen as ambitious, but the resumption of face-to-face negotiations has bolstered hopes of a deal.
"We have the two sides back at the table. That's encouraging," said Myron Brilliant, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's head of international affairs, while speaking to reporters at an event on Thursday.