BEIJING: China and the US have agreed to hold more trade talks in Beijing, Vice Premier Liu He said as US President Donald Trump ordered his trade chief to begin the process of imposing tariffs on all remaining imports from China.
Liu voiced a measured optimism on reaching a deal, but said there were “issues of principle” on which China would not back down.
“Negotiations have not broken down,” Liu, China’s chief negotiator in the talks, said in Washington on Friday, according to state television yesterday.
“Quite the opposite, I think small setbacks are normal and inevitable during the negotiations of both countries. Looking forward, we are still cautiously optimistic,” Liu said.
But Liu’s optimism was tempered by US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who said on Friday that there were no further talks with China planned “as of now.”
The US escalated a tariff war with China on Friday by hiking levies on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods in the midst of last-ditch talks to rescue a trade deal. Trump had delayed the tariffs as negotiations between Washington and Beijing were progressing.
On Friday, Trump issued orders for the tariff increase, saying China “broke the deal” by reneging on earlier commitments made during months of negotiations.
China strongly opposes the latest US tariff hike, and as a nation, has to respond to that, Liu told Chinese reporters in the video clip.
“Right now, both sides have reached mutual understanding in many things, but frankly speaking, there are also differences. We think these differences are significant issues of principle,” Liu said. “We absolutely cannot make concessions on such issues of principle.”
He added that talks would continue in Beijing, but gave no details. But underscoring a lack of progress in the talks, Trump ordered a further escalation of tariffs.
Trump’s move would subject about $300bn worth of Chinese imports to punitive tariffs, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said.
Three differences remain between the two countries, according to China’s account of the latest talks.
One of those is over tariffs, Liu said. China believes that tariffs were the genesis of the trade dispute, and that if both sides wanted to reach an agreement, then all tariffs must be eliminated, Liu said.
The second is about procurement, on which an initial consensus was reached between the leaders of the two countries in Argentina late last year. The two sides now have differing views on the volumes, Liu said. The third is over how balanced the text of the draft agreement should be, he said.