China hints US blacklist imminent in threat to trade talks

Beijing has threatened to publish such a list of companies since May, after the US placed restrictions on Huawei Technologies Co.
Beijing has threatened to publish such a list of companies since May, after the US placed restrictions on Huawei Technologies Co.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - Chinese state media said the government will soon publish a list of "unreliable entities" that could lead to sanctions against US companies, signalling that trade talks between the two nations are increasingly under threat from disputes over human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

The Communist Party-backed Global Times said in a tweet early on Tuesday (Dec 3) that the list was being sped up in response to a Bill sponsored by Republican Senator Marco Rubio requiring measures against Chinese officials involved in alleged abuses of Uighur Muslims in the far west region of Xinjiang.

Beijing has threatened to publish such a list of companies since May, after the US placed restrictions on Huawei Technologies Co.

A response from China on the Xinjiang issue that hits US companies would add another obstacle as the two countries struggle to finalise a phase-one deal to de-escalate the trade war.

On Monday, US President Donald Trump said that legislation signed last week censuring China over the protests in Hong Kong had already complicated the talks.

Global Times Editor-in-Chief Hu Xijin went further on Twitter, saying that US officials may face visa restrictions and US passport holders could be banned from entering the province. China stands accused of incarcerating as many as a million Uighurs as part of an anti-terrorism campaign, actions it describes as voluntary re-education.

China hasn't specified which companies would be affected by the blacklist, though courier firm FedEx Corp. has been under particular scrutiny this year. A re-escalation of trade tensions also places more focus on a Dec 15 deadline for Trump to add yet more tariffs on Chinese imports.

The US House of Representatives is expected to vote on Tuesday on the Xinjiang bill, which was passed by the Senate in September. The vote comes shortly after Trump signed into law a bill that supports pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong by placing the city's special trading status under annual review and threatening sanctions on officials who undermine its semi-autonomy from Beijing.

That legislation, along with a Bill that bans the export of crowd control devices to Hong Kong police, led China to threaten sanctions on some human rights organisations and halt US naval visits to the city.