United States commerce secretary visits Beijing ahead of Trump trip

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says Washington is hoping for concrete progress during President Donald Trump's planned trip to China amid rising trade tensions.

Meeting in Beijing, Ross told Chinese Premier Li Keqiang he and his delegation had been greeted very warmly which augurs well for Trump's forthcoming trip to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Ross said U.S. -China relations are getting closer and enjoy a bright future, adding that the United States welcomes China's steady and rapid opening-up and will improve communication with China for greater trade and investment partnership as well as people-to-people exchanges.

In a statement on Tuesday, the U.S. Commerce Department said that Ross had also pressed China on the "need to rebalance bilateral trade and investment relations" and urged it to take "meaningful action" on trade issues.

China will work with the United States in the spirit of mutual respect and win-win cooperation to expand cargo and service trade and resolve frictions and differences through dialogue and consultation, Li said.

"China is the world's largest developing country while the United States is the world's biggest developed country", Li said.

Trump called Xi a "friend" for whom he has "great respect" after they met at the U.S. leader's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida in April.

The two sides launched a 100-day economic plan at that meeting, including some industry-specific announcements such as the resumption of American beef sales in China.

Earlier this month, Mr Ross announced a probe into China's stainless steel flanges for alleged unfair subsidies, the latest move after the US Trade Representative began an investigation into China's intellectual property practices. Trump has since played up his personal relationship with Xi, even when criticizing China over North Korea and trade.

The visit comes as the U.S. increases calls to reduce the trade deficit with the world's biggest exporting nation and as threats of North Korea's nuclear progress continue to simmer.

Ross's visit comes at a time of heightened trade tensions between the United States and China following Trump's decision earlier this month to block a Chinese-backed private equity firm from buying a USA -based chipmaker.

There was no mention of North Korea in the comments Li and Ross made in front of reporters.

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