Share on Twitter (opens new window) Share on Facebook (opens new window) Share on LinkedIn (opens new window) Share Save Save to myFT Tom Mitchell and Yuan Yang in Beijing and James Politi in Washington YESTERDAY Print this page152 The Trump administration rejected an offer by two Chinese vice-ministers to travel to the US this week for preparatory trade talks because of a lack of progress on two key issues, highlighting the difficulty that Washington and Beijing will face in trying to reach an agreement by a deadline of March 1.

This week’s planned trip by Wang Shouwen and Liao Min was intended to pave the way for a higher-level meeting in Washington on January 30 and 31 by Liu He, China vice-premier, and Robert Lighthizer, US trade representative.  But, according to people briefed on the negotiations, US officials canceled this week’s face-to-face meetings with Mr Wang, a vice-minister of commerce, and Mr Liao, a vice-minister of finance, because of a lack of progress on “forced” technology transfers and potentially far-reaching “structural” reforms to China’s economy.

The two issues could ultimately derail the talks and cause more worry for financial markets. Investors are already jittery about the consequences of escalating tensions between the two largest economies. If an agreement is not reached by March 1, President Donald Trump has said he will more than double the punitive tariff rate imposed on about half of all Chinese exports to the US, from 10 percent to 25 percent. Larry Kudlow, the president’s top economic adviser, said on Tuesday afternoon that no “intermediate meetings” had been scheduled with Chinese delegates and denied there had been any cancellation. The US was still preparing for its planned meeting with Mr Liu at the end of the month, he said. “The story is unchanged. We are moving towards negotiations,” he told CNBC.

US negotiators are demanding that Beijing end what they allege are “forced” technology transfers from foreign companies to Chinese joint venture partners and other firms. They also want President Xi Jinping’s administration to scrap state subsidies and industrial policies that they believe discriminate against foreign investors. Mr Trump’s negotiators wanted Mr Liao, one of Mr Liu’s closest aides, and Mr Wang to come to face-to-face talks in Washington with a written offer outlining how Beijing intended to address US complaints about technology transfers and structural reforms.