China rebuffs US criticism of its trade White Paper, says Washington is shifting blame

The US Trade Representative's office and the US Treasury said on June 3 that Chinese negotiators had "backpedaled" on important elements of a deal that had been largely agreed.
The US Trade Representative's office and the US Treasury said on June 3 that Chinese negotiators had "backpedaled" on important elements of a deal that had been largely agreed.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING/WASHINGTON (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - China on Tuesday (June 4) rebuffed US criticism that a Chinese White Paper misrepresented trade negotiations between the world’s two largest economies, saying that the United States should stop making a laughing stock of itself.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing in Beijing that every setback in the trade talks was caused by the United States breaking consensus.

“It is very clear that every setback in the consultations was due to the US breaking consensus and going back on its own words,” said Mr Geng. “Accusing China of backpedalling is distorting facts and shifting blame to the innocent.”

On Monday, the Trump administration expressed disappointment that China blames the US for the failure of trade talks between the two countries.

“It is important to note that the impetus for the discussions was China’s long history of unfair trade practices,” the Treasury Department and the US Trade Representative said in a joint statement.

“Our negotiating positions have been consistent throughout these talks, and China back-pedalled on important elements of what the parties had agreed to.”

The United States is disappointed that the Chinese have used the White Paper and recent public statements to “pursue a blame game misrepresenting the nature and history of trade negotiations between the two countries", the joint statement continued.

The White Paper released by China over the weekend asserted that President Donald Trump’s decision to raise tariffs on US$200 billion (S$274 billion) of Chinese goods on May 10 was a breach of an agreement reached by Mr Trump and President Xi Jinping.

“These acts contradicted the agreement reached by the two presidents to ease friction through consultation – and the expectations of people around the world – casting a shadow over the bilateral economic and trade consultations and world economic growth,” the authors of the White Paper said.

“The US has backtracked on its commitments in the China-US economic and trade consultations, not the other way around.”

In the joint statement on Monday, the US said: “President Trump is committed to taking action to address the unfair trade practices that China has engaged in for decades, which have contributed to persistent and unsustainable trade deficits, almost US$420 billion last year, and have caused severe harm to American workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses."

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will attend the Group of 20 finance ministers’ summit in Fukuoka, Japan, that begins on Friday. Chinese officials are scheduled to attend the gathering.

If Mr Mnuchin meets with the Chinese, it would be the first face-to-face talks after the two sides reached a standoff in two-year negotiations over trade last month.

Mr Trump and Mr Xi may meet at the Group of 20 summit in Japan later this month.

“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” Vice-Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen, who led China’s working-level team in the negotiations, said in Beijing on Sunday.

China does not want a trade war with the US but would not shy away from one, according to the White Paper.