China warned the United States 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.
If Washington moves forward with sanctions, “all the economic and trade achievements negotiated by the two parties will be void”, Xinhua state news agency said in a statement on Sunday.
The discussions in Beijing, led by US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, were intended to ease tensions after Washington said on Tuesday it would follow through with tariffs on Chinese imports despite a truce reached between the two sides last month.
Beijing said the two sides had made “positive and concrete progress” on matters like increasing agricultural and energy imports but said details were left for “both sides to finalise”.
“China is willing to increase imports from all countries in the world, including the United States,” the statement said.
But Beijing warned all the results were premised on “not fighting a trade war”.
The two countries have threatened tit-for-tat tariffs on goods worth up to $150bn each.
“Our meetings so far have been friendly and frank, and covered some useful topics about specific export items,” Ross said, in brief comments to reporters.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had said on Saturday that 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.
The purchases are partly aimed at shrinking the $375bn US goods trade deficit with China.
“I want to be clear, this isn’t just about buying more goods, this is about structural changes,” Mnuchin said.
“But I also fundamentally believe that if there are structural changes that allow our companies to compete fairly, by definition, that will deal with the trade deficit alone.”
Trade analysts had warned the US’ hand might be weakened by its decision to go ahead with tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from Canada, Europe and Mexico.
That might alienate allies who share complaints about Chinese technology policy and a flood of low-priced steel, aluminium and other exports they say are the result of improper subsidies and hurt foreign competitors.