Washington’s ‘hard lines’ are not helping to solve the trade war, Beijing warns

Amanda Lee
Washington’s ‘hard lines’ are not helping to solve the trade war, Beijing warns

China’s commerce ministry said on Thursday that Washington’s hardline trade war stance will not help “solve the problems” in the countries’ dispute, expressing displeasure with comments from US President Donald Trump and US Treasury Steven Mnuchin that they were in no hurry to talk to Beijing.

Gao Feng, a spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce, said at a regularly scheduled press conference that “these so-called hard lines against China are not effective, they will not solve the problems”, in response to questions on the latest developments in Washington’s stance.

US concern about impact of China trade war on jobs and prices growing

“Unilateral trade protectionism is not the way to go,” Gao said, adding that China hopes to find a “trusting, fair and practical basis” with the US to address trade disputes.

Trump said earlier this week it was “not the right time to talk” to China about a resolution of the trade war. “They want to talk,” Trump said, in reference to Chinese officials. “It’s just not the right time to talk right now, to be honest with China.”

The next day, Mnuchin set out the Trump administration’s priorities on trade negotiations, saying further talks with China are unlikely until trade issues with Mexico, Canada and Europe are resolved.

“We’ve put [Washington’s foreign trade objectives] in three categories: the first was really [the North American Free Trade Agreement, or Nafta]; the second is dealing with the EU, which we are making progress on; and the third is China,” Mnuchin said in an interview with CNBC.

Little progress has been made to resolve trade tensions as the world’s two largest economies continue to escalate their tit-for-tat tariff war.

China targets US snowmobiles in latest trade war tit-for-tat

Last week a Chinese delegation, led by vice-minister of commerce Wang Shouwen, visited Washington for low-level talks hosted by the US Treasury’s undersecretary of international affairs, David Malpass, but the talks generated no concrete results.

Gao said China and the US agreed to “keep in touch in the next stage” but he offered no details.

Trade tensions escalated last week when the US enacted punitive tariffs of 25 per cent on an additional US$16 billion of Chinese imports, prompting immediate retaliation from China. The US initiated the trade war on July 6 by imposing tariffs on US$34 billion of goods, with China matching those sanctions dollar for dollar.

The US Commerce Department completed on Monday an unprecedented six-day public hearing on plans to impose tariffs on US$200 billion of Chinese goods, expected to go into effect in September. The tariff on these goods was initially proposed to be 10 per cent, but the rate was raised to 25 per cent at Trump’s direction.

Gao said the hearings showed that the proposed tariffs were very unpopular as “more than 90 per cent of companies in the US and China were against them”. China “hopes the US will respect the views from both Chinese and US firms and the interests of consumers”.

“Whatever decisions the US makes, China will continue on its own path of steadily pushing for reforms,” he said, repeating China’s official line.

US-China trade war could end with a ‘big deal’ through baby steps to mutual understanding

China has started to feel the impact of the trade war, Gao admitted, but added some Chinese businesses “are turning this challenge into an opportunity”, without elaborating.

“We noticed that since the implementation of US tariffs on some Chinese products, prices of some imports are higher and some of the parts produced for US firms for industrial use have been affected,” Gao said.

This article Washington’s ‘hard lines’ are not helping to solve the trade war, Beijing warns first appeared on South China Morning Post

For the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2018.

More from South China Morning Post: