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China vows to fight back if US escalates trade spat

International Business
Thu, 12 Apr 2018

Beijing: China's commerce ministry said on Thursday trade negotiations with the United States would be impossible as Washington's attempts at dialogue were not sincere, and vowed to retaliate if US President Donald Trump escalates current tensions.

China President Xi Jinping on Tuesday vowed to open China's economy further and lower import duties on goods such as cars, boosting hopes for an easing of tensions between both nations. Trump responded via Twitter that he was "thankful" for Xi's remarks on tariffs and access for US automakers, and said both countries would "make great progress together."

Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng told reporters during a regular briefing, however, that Xi's remarks had nothing to do with the trade row and should not be mischaracterised as a concession to Washington.

"I hope some people in the US do not misjudge the situation," he said. "If the United States takes any action to escalate the situation, China will not hesitate to fight back."

The world's two largest economies have threatened each other with tens of billions of dollars' worth of tariffs in recent weeks, spurring worries of a full-scale trade war that could damage global growth and roil markets.

Some US officials and analysts have said they believe the dispute could eventually be resolved via dialogue, but Beijing reiterated on Thursday that no formal talks have taken place.

"It is not a matter of whether China is willing to participate in the negotiations. It is about the US not showing sincerity at all," Gao said.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump told reporters on Thursday that talks between Beijing and Washington had been positive: "We're doing really well with China. I think we're having some great discussions, we'll see what happens."

China's Global Times tabloid wrote in a commentary that Washington could either respond sincerely to China's determination to conduct interactions showing good will with the US or keep pressuring China with unreasonable demands and escalate trade frictions.

Washington accuses Chinese firms of stealing the trade secrets of US companies and forcing them into joint ventures to acquire their technology - the crux of Trump's current tariff threats against China. Beijing denies this charge.

Trump on Monday criticised China for maintaining 25 per cent import tariffs on autos compared to the 2.5pc duties of the US, calling the relationship "stupid trade." But Gao said WTO rules do not require equal tariffs and demand for such parity is unreasonable.

He said China would continue to open its markets and implement lower tariffs pledged by Xi as soon as possible.

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