China says in principle door is open to talks with US on trade

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross with Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He after their meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on June 3, 2018.
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross with Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He after their meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on June 3, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China's door to talks is open in principle, the country's Foreign Ministry said on Monday (June 4), a day after Beijing warned that any trade and business deals reached with Washington would be void if the United States implemented tariffs.

The United States and China have threatened tit-for-tat tariffs on goods worth up to US$150 billion (S$200.25 billion) each, as US President Donald Trump has pushed Beijing to open its economy further and address the United States' large trade deficit with China.

The two countries ended their latest round of negotiations on Sunday, with US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and his delegation leaving Beijing without making a public statement, and China making no mention of any new agreements.

Following Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He's talks with Mr Ross, China referred instead to a consensus reached last month in Washington, when China agreed to increase significantly its purchases of US goods and services.

It also warned that any tariffs and other trade measures implemented by Washington would derail any agreements between the two sides.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying referred questions to the country's Commerce Ministry when asked at a regular news briefing when and where a next round of talks might occur, and if Mr Liu was preparing to go to the United States.

"But I think China's position in principle is very clear, which is that China's door to dialogue and consultations is always open," Ms Hua said.

China is sincere in wanting to "appropriately resolve" the problem via talks, she added, without elaborating.


China's State Council Information Office and the Commerce Ministry did not reply to Reuters' request for comment on the issue.

In an editorial, the official state-run China Daily said the outcome of the weekend talks suggested both sides had continued to take a constructive approach, but warned of Mr Trump's unpredictability.

"Trump claims that he is seeking fairness and reciprocity in the US' economic relationship with China, but so far he has sought to extort gains from China using the economic advantages the US has," it said.

At the end of last month's talks in Washington the two countries released a joint statement, and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin later said the trade war was "on hold".

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 US$50 billion worth of Chinese imports, as well as impose restrictions on Chinese investments in the United States and tighter export controls.

The heightened trade tensions with China come as Mr Trump has angered US allies, including Canada, Mexico and the European Union, with tariffs on metal imports.

In Washington, the US President kept up the drumbeat on trade practices in a morning Twitter post: "China already charges a tax of 16 per cent on soybeans. Canada has all sorts of trade barriers on our Agricultural products. Not acceptable!"