BEIJING • China will respond firmly if the United States insists on escalating trade tensions, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday, after President Donald Trump said further tariffs were ready to kick in if no deal was reached at the Group of 20 (G-20) summit later this month.
Mr Trump has said he is getting ready to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Osaka summit, but China has not confirmed it.
A meeting between the leaders of the world's top two economies would mark a turning point in the bruising trade dispute.
Mr Trump said last week he would decide after the meeting of the leaders of the world's largest economies whether to carry out a threat to impose tariffs on at least US$300 billion (S$409 billion) worth of Chinese goods.
On Monday, Mr Trump said he was ready to impose another round of punitive tariffs on Chinese imports if he cannot make progress in trade talks with Mr Xi in Osaka, telling CNBC that he would be "surprised" if Mr Xi did not attend.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang again would not be drawn into confirming a Xi-Trump meeting at the G-20.
"China does not want to fight a trade war, but we are not afraid of fighting a trade war," he said, adding that Beijing's door was open to talks based on equality.
"If the United States only wants to escalate trade frictions, we will resolutely respond and fight to the end," he said.
Tensions between Washington and Beijing rose sharply last month after the Trump administration accused China of having reneged on promises to make structural economic changes during months of trade talks.
The US wants sweeping changes, including an end to forced technology transfers and theft of US trade secrets. It also wants curbs on subsidies for Chinese state-owned enterprises and better access for US firms in Chinese markets.
Negotiations to resolve the dispute stalled after Washington increased tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese imports to 25 per cent and took steps to levy duties on an additional US$300 billion worth of Chinese imports.
Beijing retaliated with tariff hikes on a revised list of US$60 billion worth of US goods.
The US government has also angered China by putting Huawei Technologies on a blacklist that effectively bans US companies from doing business with the Chinese firm, the world's biggest telecoms equipment maker.
Investors worry that China will retaliate by putting US companies on a blacklist or banning the exports to the US of rare earth metals, which are used in products such as memory chips, rechargeable batteries and cellphones.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE