BEIJING (AFP) – China said yesterday it was impossible to hold trade talks with the United States while Washington is imposing tariffs that are like “holding a knife to someone’s throat”.
Speaking a day after Washington activated tariffs on USD200 billion in Chinese goods, Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen said China is open to negotiations but that the two sides must treat each other “equally and with respect”.
“Now that the US has adopted this type of large-scale trade restrictions, they’re holding a knife to someone’s throat. Under these circumstances, how can negotiations proceed?” Wang told a news conference.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had invited Chinese officials to hold new talks, but President Donald Trump’s latest salvo – and warnings that another USD267 billion of goods are being lined up – appear to have scuttled that effort.
Wang met US officials in Washington in August but there have been no high-level meetings between the world’s top two economies for months.
He said yesterday the US measures “have made it impossible for the negotiations to proceed” and blamed the US for abandoning a consensus on trade that was struck in May, but was quickly followed by new US tariffs.
High-ranking officials from several Chinese government agencies held a press conference yesterday as Beijing rolled out a new white paper claiming to set the record straight on trade-related facts.
Fu Ziying, another Vice Minister of Commerce, noted that some in the United States accuse Beijing of engaging in unfair competitive practices, causing the huge trade deficit between the two countries.
“This is totally devoid of fact, groundless, and totally misleading,” he said, adding that American firms sold USD700 billion worth of goods in China each year, earning more than USD500 billion in profit.
The trade fight between the top two economic giants has steadily escalated through the summer, as the US levied two waves of new tariffs that have now hit about USD250 billion worth of goods, roughly half of China’s exports to the United States.
Beijing has struck back with each step, hitting USD110 billion worth of US goods, or nearly everything China buys from the United States.
Experts have warned the snowballing trade spat will harm both economies and even global growth, with Fitch Ratings cutting its growth estimates for China and the world for 2019.
China’s exports to the US accounted for 19 per cent of all its overseas shipments last year, according to the white paper published by China’s Cabinet, the State Council, on Monday.
Officials in Beijing said they planned to step up support for harmed industries and companies as they seek to offset the trade war’s effects.
“We will actively take all types of measures to help companies resolve their difficulties,” said Vice Minister of Industry and Information Technology Luo Wen.
China will “earnestly reduce taxes and burdens for companies and strive to optimise the business environment”, he added.
Some European and American firms have already started shifting supply chains out of China, or put new investments on hold, according to industry group surveys, a potential problem for Beijing as economic growth sags.
Foreign firms said the latest round of US tariffs, hitting a wide swathe of products including electronics and furniture, would worsen their problems, according to the surveys.
Luo called the trade-related risks driving firms out of China a natural phenomenon and said Beijing would look at the situation rationally.
“We believe the vast majority of companies will remain in China and deepen their development,” he said.