Monday 3 June 2019 - 06:28

Senior Chinese official says US ‘cannot’ use pressure to force a trade deal with China

Story Code : 797647
China's Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen speaks at a press conference in Beijing, China, on September 25, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

US President Donald Trump initiated what is effectively a trade war with China last year, when he first imposed unusually heavy tariffs on imports from the country. Since then, the world’s two largest economies have exchanged tariffs on more than $360 billion in two-way trade.

The two sides have held talks to settle the issue, but all to no avail so far. Their latest round of trade negotiations ended last month without conclusion, with Trump accusing Beijing that it had “reneged” on its previous promises to make structural changes to its economic practices.

They have yet to set a date to resume the talks, with the US president announcing an increase of tariffs from 10 percent to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports and Beijing hiking its own tariffs on $60 billion worth of American products.

China strongly opposes the US tariff hikes, saying they are harmful not only to China and the US, but to the whole world.
Washington, for its part, says a primary goal of the aggressive tariff strategy is to decrease the trade imbalance with China, which totaled $379 billion in 2018.

“If the US side wants to use extreme pressure, to escalate the trade friction, to force China to submit and make concessions, this is absolutely impossible,” said Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen, who has been part of China’s negotiating team.

His comments came a day after Beijing hit $60 billion worth of US goods with new punitive tariffs ranging from five to 25 percent, a retaliatory move in response to Washington’s raising duty on $200 billion in Chinese goods to 25 percent.

“During the consultations, China has overcome many difficulties and put forward pragmatic solutions. However, the US has backtracked, and when you give them an inch, they want a yard,” Wang further said, adding that it was irresponsible of Washington to accuse Beijing of backtracking.

He also noted that the US had made “unreasonably high” demands and insisted on adding to the countries’ agreement “demands relating to China’s sovereign rights.” The increasing of tariffs by Washington have heightened tensions and severely frustrated the now-stalled talks, he further said.

Wang’s remarks were echoed by Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe at a defense forum in Singapore on Sunday. “If the US wants to talk, we will keep the door open. If they want a fight, we will fight till the end,” he said.

Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will participate at the at the G20 summit due to be held in Osaka, Japan, at the end of this month, with the US president saying that he will meet the Chinese leader there. However, Beijing has not yet confirmed the meeting.

Trade war has “not made US great again”
Additionally on Sunday, Beijing said in a white paper that Washington’s aggressive tariff strategy has not “made America great again”, instead, it has damaged its own economy.

The paper noted that Washington’s tariff war has increased production costs and consumer prices in the US and hence posed threats to the country’s economic growth.

“The (US) tariff measures have not boosted American economic growth. Instead, they have done serious harm to the US economy,” it said.

However, most observers have already warned that the persisting trade war between Beijing and the US could shatter global economic growth and hurt demand for commodities like oil.

Last week, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that consumers in the US and China were “unequivocally the losers from trade tensions,” warning that the current trade war would “jeopardize” global growth this year, weakening confidence and pushing up prices for consumers.