WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin may visit China, in a move that could help defuse rising trade tensions between the world's two largest economies that threaten to derail a global economic recovery.

The United States has threatened to impose tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese imports in a bid to try and force Beijing to stop its companies from stealing American companies' intellectual property.

"A trip is under consideration," Mnuchin said at a press conference during the International Monetary Fund and World Bank spring meetings in Washington on Saturday.

"I am not going to make any comment on timing, nor do I have anything confirmed, but a trip is under consideration."


Beijing has threatened retaliation against U.S. exports if Washington pushes ahead with the tariffs. The risks of a spiraling trade war were highlighted when U.S. President Donald Trump told his trade team to identify another $100 billion in Chinese imports that could be hit with tariffs.

Mnuchin said he met with China's new central bank governor, Yi Gang, during the IMF and World Bank meetings and discussed the potential for China to open its markets to more foreign competition.

"I did meet with the Chinese here. The discussions were really more around the governor's actions at the PBOC (People's Bank of China) and certain actions they've announced in terms of opening some of their markets, which we very much encourage and appreciate."

(Reporting by David Lawder; Writing by David Chance; Editing by Paul Simao)

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