China's Vice-Premier Liu He says China ready to defend its interests in trade spat with US

Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He said China still hopes both sides will remain "rational" and jointly work together to keep bilateral trade relations stable. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - The United States has violated international trade rules with an inquiry into intellectual property and China is ready to defend its interests, Vice-Premier Liu He told US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, state media said on Saturday (March 24).

US President Donald Trump plans to impose tariffs on up to US$60 billion (S$79 billion) in Chinese goods for what he calls misappropriation of US intellectual property under Section 301 of the 1974 US Trade Act.

The escalating tension sent shivers through financial markets as investors foresaw dire consequences for the global economy if trade barriers start going up.

In a telephone call with Mr Mnuchin, Mr Liu, a Harvard-trained economist who advises President Xi Jinping, said China still hoped both sides would remain "rational" and jointly work together to keep trade relations stable, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The Section 301 investigation report "violates international trade rules and is beneficial to neither Chinese interests, US interests nor global interests", Xinhua cited Liu as saying.

"China has already prepared, and has the strength, to defend its national interests," Mr Liu said, adding that China hopes both sides can work hard to protect the broad picture of generally stable Sino-US trade and business relations.

Both sides agreed to continue to communicate on the matter, the report added, without providing further details.

China showed readiness to retaliate by declaring plans to levy additional duties on up to US$3 billion of US imports, including fruit and wine, in response to US import tariffs on steel and aluminium that were due to take effect on Friday.

The state-run Global Times said China was only just beginning to look at means to retaliate, following the announcement of its initial response.

"We believe it is only part of China's countermeasures, and soybeans and other US farm products will be targeted," the widely-read tabloid said in a Saturday editorial.

"It does not look like just a trade war, but rather the US is trying to bully China and the rest of the world in order to make China concede economic resources and development opportunities to the US and make the U.S. forever big and strong."

China has made great efforts to be constructive to try and deal with the trade frictions in the face of US provocation, the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily wrote in a commentary.

"But Washington was determined to choose rashness and impetuousness, and the necessary effect from this was China's follow-up actions to resolutely protect its own legitimate interests," it said.

The United States should not underestimate China's determination to protect itself, the paper said in an article signed "Zhong Sheng", or "Voice of China", used to express its views on foreign affairs.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.