Members of the Trump administration's seven-man delegation to Beijing for talks to try to stave off a trade war between the world's two largest economies have widely divergent views on trade policy and tariffs, which may make it hard for them to speak with one voice.
The trip to China by a bevy of senior USA officials - the contingent also includes National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, among others - was approved by Mr. Trump to see if Beijing is willing to make significant changes in policy.
Xi Jinping's top economic advisor Vice Premier Liu He is leading the talks for China.
Mark Calabria, chief economist to Vice President Mike Pence, said at an event in Washington that the US has turned over a detailed "list of asks" to Chinese officials but did not elaborate on the contents of that list, Bloomberg News reported.
Although Trump has railed against the USA trade deficit with China, and threatened to impose tariffs on a further $100 billion in Chinese goods, the dispute reflects Washington's growing impatience over China's industrial policies and market access restrictions.
The president has long complained of what he says are unfair Chinese policies contributing to a huge US trade deficit. The meeting is seen by some as a positive step, as the two sides attempt to avoid the possible outbreak of a trade war. But Parker says business leaders worry that the administration's obsession with the trade deficit, which many economists say is misplaced, reduces the likelihood of improving conditions for American companies.
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The most likely outcome for tense U.S.
Trucks transport containers at a port in Qingdao, Shandong province, China, Apr. 8, 2018.
Trump last month accused Russian Federation and China of devaluing their currencies while the United States raises interest rates, which Mnuchin later described as a "warning shot".
The United States and China have threatened recently to impose tariffs on tens of billions of dollars of each other's goods, and both sides are hoping enough progress will be made in the negotiations to dial down the tension.
Liu´s visit to Washington earlier this year for trade talks produced few tangible results.
The delegation returned to their hotel late on Thursday evening without taking questions from reporters, though, when asked how the talks were going, one unidentified United States official said "Well". The Chinese government has also responded with threats of its own, saying that if the USA presses ahead with tariffs it will respond in kind. But it also requires foreign companies to provide key details about their technologies to Chinese partners.
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President Donald Trump said on Twitter U.S. officials are "trying to negotiate a level playing field on trade". "I look forward to being with President Xi in the not too distant future".
The US may also intend to seek concessions from China by threatening to impose additional tariffs on a broad range of Chinese goods. Last year, the annual U.S. trade deficit with China stood at a record high of 375.2 billion dollars.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman confirmed the talks had begun, but did not provide further information. But she said the negotiations should be based on equality and respect, to provide a "win-win" agreement for both sides.
USA officials are concerned about Beijing´s ´Made in China 2025´ industrial policy which they see as a Chinese plan to dominate key high tech industries.
Christopher Balding is a professor at Peking University's HSBC Business School.
"The lack of coherent USA priorities in trade policy toward China will become apparent during the talks and further undermine US credibility in China's eyes", Medeiros wrote in a report.
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"I would be somewhat surprised if there was any real change in the negotiating stance of either party".