Trade war: China warns US tariffs will void trade talks

US and China have threatened tit-for-tat tariffs on goods worth up to $150 billion each

US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross (left)  shakes hands with Chinese vice-remier Liu He. Photograph: AP

US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross (left) shakes hands with Chinese vice-remier Liu He. Photograph: AP


China warned the United States on Sunday that any agreements reached on trade and business between the two countries will be void if Washington implements tariffs and other trade measures, as the two ended their latest round of talks in Beijing.

A short statement, carried by the official Xinhua news agency, made no mention of any specific new agreements after US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross met Chinese vice premier Liu He.

It referred instead to a consensus they reached last month in Washington, when China agreed to significantly increase its purchases of US goods and services.

“To implement the consensus reached in Washington, the two sides have had good communication in various areas such as agriculture and energy, and have made positive and concrete progress,” the state news agency said, adding details would be subject to “final confirmation by both parties”.

The United States and China have threatened tit-for-tat tariffs on goods worth up to $150 billion each. The US buys four times as much goods and servcies from the Chinese as it sells to them.

Xinhua said China’s attitude had been consistent, that it was willing to increase imports from all countries, including the United States.

“Reform and opening up and expanding domestic demand are China’s national strategies. Our established rhythm will not change,” it added.

“The achievements reached by China and the United States should be based on the premise that the two sides should meet each other halfway and not fight a trade war,” Xinhua said.

“If the United States introduces trade sanctions including raising tariffs, all the economic and trade achievements negotiated by the two parties will be void.”

There was no immediate comment or statement from the US delegation or from Mr Ross himself.

Joint statement

At the end of last month’s Washington talks the two countries put out a joint statement.

But just when it appeared a trade truce between the two economic heavyweights was on the cards, the White House last week warned it would pursue tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports, as well as impose restrictions on Chinese investments in the United States and tighter export controls.

State-run Chinese newspaper the Global Times said in an editorial on its website that China needed to prepare for the long haul due to the US propensity for changing its mind and coming up with new demands.

“Tariffs and expanding exports - the United States can’t have both,” it said. “China-US trade negotiations have to dig up the two sides’ greatest number of common interests, and cannot be tilted toward unilateral US interests.”

Xinhua said in a separate commentary that the United States should not test China with any further flip-flops or provocations.

“The Chinese government’s attitude of not wanting but also not fearing a trade war has never changed,” it said.

Ross arrived in Beijing on Saturday for talks after the Trump administration renewed tariff threats against China, and with key US allies in a foul mood towards Washington after they were hit with duties on steel and aluminium.

Addressing Mr Liu earlier in the day at the start of their formal talks at a government guest house, Mr Ross praised the tone of their interactions.

“Our meetings so far have been friendly and frank, and covered some useful topics about specific export items,” Mr Ross said, in brief comments before reporters.

Mr Liu spoke only to welcome Mr Ross.

Neither man has made any other comments to the media.

Mr Ross is expected to leave Beijing later on Sunday.

Mr Liu, a Harvard-trained economist who is a trusted confidant of Chinese president Xi Jinping, is China’s chief negotiator in the trade dispute.

US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Saturday the United States wanted this weekend’s talks to result in structural changes to China’s economy, in addition to increased Chinese purchases of American goods. - Reuters