Speaking a day after Washington activated tariffs on $200bn in Chinese goods, Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen said China is open to negotiations but that the two sides must treat each other “equally and with respect”.
“Now that the US has adopted this type of large-scale trade restrictions, they’re holding a knife to someone’s throat. Under these circumstances, how can negotiations proceed?” Wang told a news conference.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had invited Chinese officials to hold new talks, but President Donald Trump’s latest salvo – and warnings that another $267bn of goods being lined up – appear to have scuttled that effort.
Now that the US has adopted this type of large-scale trade restrictions, they're holding a knife to someone's throat. Under these circumstances, how can negotiations proceed?
Wang met US officials in Washington in August but there have been no high-level meetings between the world’s top two economies for months.
He said on Tuesday the US measures “have made it impossible for the negotiations to proceed” and blamed the US for abandoning a consensus on trade that was struck in May, but was quickly followed by new US tariffs.
The trade fight between the top two economic giants has steadily escalated through the summer, as the US levied two waves of new tariffs that have now hit about $250bn worth of goods, roughly half of China’s exports to the United States.
Beijing has hit back with each step, hitting $110bn worth of US goods, or nearly everything China buys from the United States.
Experts have warned the snowballing trade spat will harm both economies and even global growth, with Fitch Ratings cutting its growth estimates for China and the world for 2019.
China’s exports to the US accounted for 19 percent of all its overseas shipments last year, according to a white paper published by China’s cabinet, the State Council, on Monday.
Officials in Beijing said they planned to step up support for harmed industries and companies as they seek to offset the trade war’s effects.
Beijing’s plans to cut costs for exporters and recently announced a plan to reduce taxes exporters have to pay.
“We will actively take all types of measures to help companies resolve their difficulties,” Luo Wen, Vice Minister of Industry and Information Technology, said when asked about how companies would fare in the trade war.
China will “earnestly reduce taxes and burdens for companies and strive to optimise the business environment”, he added.
Monday’s US tariffs hit a wide swathe of products including Chinese-made voice data receivers, computer memory modules, automatic data processors, and accessories for office equipment such as copiers and banknote dispensers – instantly making widely used goods more expensive.
China’s retaliatory levies target 5,200 US goods worth $60bn with new five to 10 percent tariffs, including big-ticket items such as liquefied natural gas, lumber and electronics, as well as peppermint oil, pig hides and condoms.