China stays silent on G-20 Xi-Trump meeting, but says door open for talks

A customer looks at an imported Renault car in a showroom in China's eastern Shandong province. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China is open for more trade talks with Washington but has nothing to announce about a possible meeting between the Chinese and US leaders at this month's G-20 summit, the Foreign Ministry said on Monday (June 10).

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly said he is getting ready to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Osaka summit at the end of June, but China has not confirmed it.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Saturday that the leaders' meeting has some parallels with their Buenos Aires summit last December, which saw Washington postpone a tariff hike while the two sides resumed negotiations.

Speaking in Beijing at a daily news briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang again would not confirm such a meeting.

But Mr Geng said China has noticed that recently the US side has said many times it hopes to arrange a Xi-Trump meeting then.

"If there is concrete news on this, China will release it in a timely manner," Mr Geng said.

On the trade dispute and talks about it, China's position is very clear, he added.

"China does not want to fight a trade war, but is not afraid of one. If the US side is willing to have equal consultations then our door is open. If the US side insists on escalating the trade friction, we will firmly respond and fight to the end."

As this year's June 28-29 G-20 summit in Osaka approaches, Mr Trump is preparing to launch 25 per cent tariffs on virtually all Chinese imports so far untouched by the two countries' tariff war. They would apply to a US$300 billion (S$410 billion) list of consumer goods including cell phones, computers and clothing.

Mr Trump said on Thursday in France that he will decide whether to proceed with the tariffs after the meeting with Mr Xi.

The Buenos Aires summit paved the way for five months of talks aimed at ending the festering trade dispute.

But negotiations broke down in early May, with the US accusing the Chinese side of reneging on earlier commitments.

No face-to-face meetings have been held since May 10, the day that Mr Trump sharply increased tariffs on a US$200 billion list of Chinese goods to 25 per cent - the increase that he delayed after the Buenos Aires meeting.

Since then, acrimonious rhetoric and trade threats between Beijing and Washington have steadily increased, especially after the United States imposed severe sanctions against Huawei Technologies Co, China's premier telecommunications equipment firm.

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