Trump says US, China plan to have 'a talk' on trade

Trump’s (above) comments followed signs from China that it wouldn’t immediately retaliate against the latest US tariff increase.
Trump’s (above) comments followed signs from China that it wouldn’t immediately retaliate against the latest US tariff increase.PHOTO: AP

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - President Donald Trump said Thursday (Aug 29) that the US and China are scheduled to have a conversation about trade without giving details.

Trump's comments followed signs from China that it wouldn't immediately retaliate against the latest US tariff increase and wanted to focus on removing new tariffs, to prevent a further escalation of the trade war.

"There is a talk scheduled for today at a different level," Trump said when asked in a Fox News radio interview if September talks with China are still on.

"I promise I'm not going to give up" on the tariff war with China, he added, when asked about concerns expressed by Republican senators and others that uncertainty on trade was contributing to a US economic slowdown.

A report earlier Thursday showed US economic growth decelerated in the second quarter by more than initially reported, suggesting the president's trade actions are weighing more heavily on the pace of expansion.

Stocks across Asia pared losses and US stocks rallied alongside European stocks on Thursday as investors saw reason for trade-talk optimism. But investors have sent bond yields plummeting in recent weeks amid growing concern the record-long US expansion is approaching an end.

"China has ample means for retaliation, but thinks the question that should be discussed now is about removing the new tariffs to prevent escalation of the trade war," Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng told reporters in Beijing on Thursday.

"China is lodging solemn representations with the US on the matter."

When asked if that meant China wouldn't retaliate at all for the latest escalation by the US, Gao did not elaborate but repeated the same comments.

Gao's remarks came amid signs China's economy slowed further in August, according to a Bloomberg Economics gauge aggregating the earliest available indicators from financial markets and businesses.

The US announced new tariff rates earlier this month on US$300 billion (S$400 billion) of Chinese goods that will come into effect in September and December. Beijing then retaliated last week, announcing its own higher import taxes.

That prompted a reaction from Trump, who tweeted that existing 25 per cent tariffs on some US$250 billion in imports from China would rise to 30 per cent come Oct 1, the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. He also lifted planned levies on US$300 billion in Chinese goods due on Sept 1 and Dec 15 even higher.

"China's been ripping off the United States," Trump said in the interview with Fox News. "I think they want to make a deal, I sort of think they have to make a deal, and we'll see what happens."

Trump's remarks follow comments on Wednesday by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who said US trade officials expect Chinese negotiators to visit Washington, but wouldn't say whether a previously planned September meeting would take place.

"We continue to have conversations. We're planning for them to come," Mnuchin said in an interview, declining to say whether the September encounter would happen.

On Monday, in off-the-cuff remarks to reporters at the Group of Seven summit in France, Trump claimed that Chinese officials called "our top trade people" and said "let's get back to the table."

Chinese officials weren't able to confirm that account.