BEIJING — U.S. and Chinese negotiators opened talks Thursday on a sprawling trade dispute as Beijing reported its January exports rebounded despite President Trump’s tariff hikes.

Trump said earlier the talks could help decide whether he escalates the fight over China’s technology ambitions by going ahead with more penalty duties March 2 on $200 billion of Chinese goods.

The battle between the two biggest economies has fueled fears it will drag on, weakening global growth. China’s economy grew at its slowest pace in three decades last year, adding to pressure on communist leaders to reach a settlement.

Both sides have expressed optimism but released no details. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and his Chinese counterpart, Vice Premier Liu He, shook hands at the start of the meeting at a government guesthouse but said nothing to reporters.

The U.S. delegation also includes Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and David Malpass, a Treasury undersecretary who is Trump’s nominee for World Bank president.

On Tuesday, Trump said that while he is not inclined to extend the deadline, he might let it “slide for a little while” if talks go well. Earlier, the White House called March 2 a “hard deadline.”

Economists and business groups say the planned two days of negotiations allow too little time to reach a final settlement, but Beijing hopes to persuade Trump enough progress is being made to forestall the new tariff hikes.

There was no indication whether negotiators are making progress on the thorniest dispute: U.S. pressure on Beijing to scale back plans for government-led creation of Chinese global leaders in robotics and other technologies.

A Ministry of Commerce spokesman, Gao Feng, told reporters at a regular weekly briefing that he had no details on the status of the talks.

Meanwhile, customs data released Thursday showed Chinese exports in January rose 9.1 percent from a year earlier, recovering from December’s 3.5 percent decline.

Exports to the United States sank 2.4 percent, after Trump’s tariff hikes on Chinese products.

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