USA makes trade talks move as pressure mounts ahead of midterms

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The duty on light trucks, which account for about 50 percent of auto sales in the US, was hardly mentioned before Mr. Trump started threatening Europe with tariffs on vehicles.

The US has launched a trade war against China which could see all of its exports to the US subject to duties.

In Washington, White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow sounded a cautious note about the possible outcome of talks.

Beijing on Thursday accepted Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin's invitation to a new round of trade talks before the next tranche of tariffs.

He vowed last week to increase tariffs to hit an additional US$200 billion in Chinese imports "very soon" unless China agreed to steps that would reduce its massive trade surplus.

"There's some discussions and information that we received that the Chinese government - the top of the Chinese government wished to pursue talks", Kudlow told Fox Business Network on Wednesday.

China welcomed on Thursday a United States offer to hold fresh trade talks, adding that the two are discussing the details and providing some hope the world's top economies could step back from the brink of an all-out trade war.

Things are likely to continue to slow with Donald Trump's threat made over the weekend that an additional round of tariffs targeting US$267 billion are already being lined up to follow the US$200 billion expected to go into effect within days.

The current world trade system is not flawless and China supports reforms to it, including to the World Trade Organization, to make it fairer and more effective, Beijing's top diplomat said. "That's what we've been asking for months and months". "If we meet, we meet?" he wrote.

But he cautioned: "I guarantee nothing".

The damage from the trade war to United States businesses in China includes lost profits, higher manufacturing costs and lower demand for their products, according to the survey of more than 430 companies in industries ranging from technology to health care.

The timing and location of the proposed meeting were unclear, the sources familiar with the matter said.

A day earlier, more than 60 U.S. industry groups launched a coalition - Americans for Free Trade - to take the fight against the tariffs public.

The last talks, between mid-level US and Chinese officials on August 22 and 23, failed to reach any agreement.

American officials also worry they might erode US industrial leadership.

The invitation, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, comes amid a swelling chorus of opposition to tariffs from Western business circles. A meeting among cabinet-level officials could ease market worries over the escalating tariff war that threatens to engulf all trade between the world's two largest economies and raise costs for companies and consumers.

On Thursday, the USA business lobbies AmCham China and AmCham Shanghai published a joint survey showing that the negative impact on USA companies in China of tit-for-tat tariffs Washington and Beijing have imposed on one another was "clear and far reaching".

"Every sector of the US economy stands to lose in a trade war", Matthew Shay, who heads the National Retail Federation, said in the statement.

Some 63.6 percent of more than 430 companies that responded to the American chambers' survey said profits and customer demand have fallen due to the US tariffs and 62.5 percent said the same about retaliatory Chinese tariffs.

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