Envoys in ‘close communication’ ahead of US deadline says China

BEIJING (AP) – Chinese negotiators are in “close communication” with Washington ahead of a possible United States (US) tariff hike, the Ministry of Commerce said yesterday, but gave no indication whether trade talks were making progress.

A Ministry spokesman gave no indication whether Washington was preparing to delay the increase due on Sunday on USD160 billion of Chinese imports as some news reports indicated.

Those reports said US President Donald Trump’s advisers were preparing for a possible delay of the duty increase as negotiators work on details of an interim “Phase 1” agreement announced in October.

“The economic and trade teams of both sides have maintained close communication,” said Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng. He said he had no additional details to release.

Beijing has threatened to retaliate if the US tariff hike goes ahead but Gao didn’t respond to a question about what China might do.

The two sides have increased tariffs on billions of dollars of each other’s imports in a fight over Beijing’s technology ambitions and trade surplus.

The conflict has disrupted global trade and threatens to chill economic growth.

The planned weekend US tariff hike would extend punitive duties to almost everything the US buys from China. Imports last year totalled more than USD500 billion.

File stacked containers at the Port of Oakland in Oakland, California. PHOTO: AP