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The US and China are reaching greater mutual understanding on trade, says ex-Beijing official

Key Points
  • The U.S. and China have improved mutual understanding and are reaching better consensus on trade issues, said Jin Xu, a former official at the Chinese commerce ministry.
  • Huawei's legal troubles should be resolved "fairly," Jin told CNBC on Thursday.
The Chinese port of Nantong in Jiangsu Province, China.
Xu Congjun | Visual China Group | Getty Images

The U.S. and China are reaching greater consensus on trade issues, a former official at the Chinese commerce ministry told CNBC on Thursday.

"Within the last nine months, we had three rounds of consultations; I think we have more and more consensus about it," said Jin Xu, a former senior commerce ministry official. Jin was also previously a diplomat to the U.S., U.K. and Turkey.

According to sources who spoke to CNBC, Washington and Beijing are approaching the finish line on trade negotiations that could end later this month.

"Both countries agree to have more and more mutual understanding and also want to build much better relations for business people for the two countries," Jin told CNBC's Martin Soong in Beijing.

"If we have more and more consensus, the world will benefit from it," said Jin, emphasizing that China is the world's largest developing country and the U.S. is the world's largest developed country.

Jin, who is now the chairman of China International Trade Association, said he was hopeful for a positive outcome from the talks and that China will make policy adjustments accordingly.

China is currently in the midst of a two-week long annual parliamentary meeting, the National People's Congress, which kicked off on Tuesday and ends next Friday (Mar. 5-15).

At the opening of that meeting this week, Premier Li Keqiang said the Chinese economy will likely slow this year, and revealed that the official economic growth target for 2019 will be 6.0 to 6.5 percent. That compares to an expansion of 6.6 percent in 2018 — its slowest growth since 1990.

Li also said the country's months-long tariff war with the U.S. has hurt business activities — but he reiterated Beijing's commitment to "safeguarding economic globalization" and pledged to promote China-U.S. trade negotiations while advancing negotiations on other trade agreements.

Huawei case should be resolved 'fairly'

Jin also weighed in on the troubles of Chinese telecommunications equipment giant Huawei, which the Trump administration has accused of stealing trade secrets and skirting sanctions. The U.S. government has also tried to persuade allies against using Huawei gear amid concerns that its equipment could be used for espionage.

In December last year, the company's chief financial official Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada amid allegations that Huawei violated U.S. sanctions against Iran. She faces extradition to the U.S.

"We hope the Huawei case could be solved fairly according to the law," said Jin. "Because China, U.S., even Canada, we should stick to our law and we hope this case could be solved fairly. "

Huawei on Thursday sued the U.S. over a law banning government agencies from buying the tech giant's equipment, saying the legislation is unconstitutional. The company also sued Canadian authorities earlier, alleging that Meng was arrested, detained and searched in violation of her constitutional rights.

— CNBC's Arjun Kharpal, Evelyn Cheng, Fred Imbert and Kayla Tausche contributed to this report.