China, US trade negotiating teams maintaining ‘effective communication’: Chinese foreign ministry

A new round of US tariffs on some Chinese goods is scheduled to take effect on Sunday, threatening to escalate an already bitter trade war.
A new round of US tariffs on some Chinese goods is scheduled to take effect on Sunday, threatening to escalate an already bitter trade war.PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON/BEIJING (REUTERS) - Chinese and US trade negotiating teams are maintaining effective communication, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday (Aug 30) at a daily news briefing in Beijing.

The remark is the latest sign that the US and China will resume trade talks as the two economic superpowers discussed the next round of in-person negotiations in September ahead of a looming deadline for additional US tariffs.

A new round of US tariffs on some Chinese goods is scheduled to take effect on Sunday, threatening to escalate an already bitter trade war.

President Donald Trump said some discussions were taking place on Thursday, with more talks scheduled.

China's commerce ministry also said a September round of meetings was being discussed by the two sides, but said it was important for Washington to cancel a tariff increase.

"There is a talk scheduled for today at a different level," Mr Trump said in an interview with Fox News Radio, without giving details.

A spokesman for the US Trade Representative could not immediately be reached for comment on the planned call.

"China wants to make a deal," Mr Trump said in the interview, adding that China was losing millions of jobs under pressure from US tariffs.

"I think they want to make a deal, I sort of think they have to make a deal. We'll see what happens."

The Trump administration on Sunday is scheduled to begin collecting 15 per cent tariffs on more than US$125 billion (S$173 billion) in Chinese imports, including smart speakers, Bluetooth headphones and many types of footwear.

Mr Trump last Friday said he was increasing existing and planned tariffs by 5 per cent on about US$550 billion worth of Chinese imports after Beijing announced its own retaliatory tariffs on US goods.

Tariffs of 15 per cent on cellphones, laptop computers, toys and clothing are to take effect on Dec 15. The US Trade Representative's Office said on Thursday that it would collect public comments through Sept 20 on a planned tariff increase to 30 per cent on a US$250 billion list of goods already hit with a 25 per cent tariff.

US stocks rallied more than 1 per cent on Thursday on positive sentiment about the trade talks, although some analysts noted that Mr Trump's comments were light on substance.

CANCEL THE TARIFFS

In Beijing, Chinese commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng told reporters that China hopes Washington can cancel the planned tariff increase to avoid an escalation in the trade war.

"The most important thing at the moment is to create necessary conditions for both sides to continue negotiations," he said during a weekly briefing, adding that China was lodging "solemn representation" with the US.

Mr Gao said China had "ample" countermeasures to retaliate against the planned US tariffs, but talks in the current circumstances should focus on whether the tariffs could be cancelled.

He did not answer directly when asked if his remarks suggested China would not retaliate against the latest US tariff threat.

 
 
 

For two years, the Trump administration has sought to pressure China to make sweeping changes to its policies on intellectual property protection, forced transfers of technology to Chinese firms, industrial subsidies and market access.

China has consistently denied Washington's accusations that it engages in unfair trade practices, vowing to fight back in kind and criticising US measures as protectionist.

A survey of US companies doing business in China found that they are largely still making profits in China, but 81 per cent said escalating US-China trade tensions have affected their business operations.

That marks an 8 percentage point increase from 2018, said the US-China Business Council, which represents more than 220 US companies ranging from Boeing Co to Archer Daniels Midland and Hewlett Packard.

The council's president, Mr Craig Allen, a former senior US government official and expert on China, urged the US and China to return to the negotiating table to end damaging tariffs and avert lasting damage to bilateral business ties.

The survey showed US companies are losing sales because their Chinese customers increasingly view US companies as unreliable business partners given the volatility of the bilateral commercial relationship.

Nearly 40 per cent of those surveyed said they lost sales because of Chinese partners' concerns about doing business with US companies, a seven-fold increase over 2018.

In July 2018, the US-China trade dispute boiled over in tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of each other's goods and threatens to engulf all trade between the countries, putting global growth at risk.