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Trade, business deals void if tariffs implemented, China warns US

Both sides should meet each other halfway and not fight a trade war, Xinhua says

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross met Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He in the latest round of US-China talks in Beijing.


CHINA warned the United States on Sunday that any agreements reached on trade and business between the two countries will be void if Washington implements tariffs and other trade measures, as the two ended their latest round of talks in Beijing.

A short statement, carried by the official Xinhua news agency, made no mention of any specific new agreement after US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross met Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He.

It referred instead to a consensus they reached last month in Washington, when China agreed to significantly increase its purchases of US goods and services.

"The two sides had good communication about implementing the consensus reached in Washington and on many areas such as agriculture and energy, achieving positive and concrete progress," the state news agency said, adding details would be subject to "final confirmation by both parties".

The US and China have threatened tit-for-tat tariffs on goods worth up to US$150 billion each. Xinhua said that China's attitude has been consistent, which is that it is willing to increase imports from all countries, including the US.

"Reform and opening up and expanding domestic demand are China's national strategies. Our established rhythm will not change," it added.

"The achievements reached by China and the United States should be based on the premise that the two sides should meet each other halfway and not fight a trade war," Xinhua said.

"If the United States introduces trade sanctions including tariffs, all the economic and trade achievements negotiated by the two parties will be void."

There was no immediate comment or statement from the US delegation or from Mr Ross himself.

At the end of last month's Washington talks, the two countries put out a joint statement.

But just when it appeared a trade truce between the two economic heavyweights was on the cards, the White House last week warned that it would pursue tariffs on US$50 billion worth of Chinese imports, as well as impose restrictions on Chinese investments in the US and tighter export controls.

Mr Ross arrived in Beijing on Saturday for talks after the Trump administration renewed tariff threats against China, and with key US allies in a foul mood towards Washington after they were hit with duties on steel and aluminium.

Addressing Mr Liu earlier in the day, Mr Ross praised the tone of their interactions.

"Our meetings so far have been friendly and frank, and covered some useful topics about specific export items," Mr Ross said, in brief comments before reporters.

Mr Liu spoke only to welcome Mr Ross. Neither man has made any other comments to the media.

Mr Liu, a Harvard-trained economist who is a trusted confidant of Chinese President Xi Jinping, is China's chief negotiator in the trade dispute.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Saturday that the US wanted the weekend's talks to result in structural changes to China's economy, in addition to increased Chinese purchases of American goods.

The purchases are partly aimed at shrinking the US$375 billion US goods trade deficit with China.

Mr Mnuchin, speaking at a G-7 finance leaders meeting in Canada where he was the target of US allies' anger over steel and aluminium tariffs, said the China talks would cover other issues, including the Trump administration's desire to eliminate Chinese joint venture requirements and other policies that effectively force technology transfers.

"I want to be clear, this isn't just about buying more goods, this is about structural changes," Mr Mnuchin said. "But I also fundamentally believe that if there are structural changes that allow our companies to compete fairly, by definition, that will deal with the trade deficit alone."

The US delegation at the Beijing talks included Under Secretary of Treasury for International Affairs David Malpass, Under Secretary of Agriculture for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney, and United States Trade Representative Chief Agricultural Negotiator Gregg Doud.

Other officials and technical experts from the Department of Commerce, Department of Treasury, United States Trade Representative, Department of Agriculture, and Department of Energy also took part, the White House said.

China's delegation included central bank governor Yi Gang, Commerce Minister Zhong Shan, and Ning Jizhe, a deputy head of the powerful planning body the National Development and Reform Commission.

Mr Ross, who was preceded in Beijing last week by more than 50 US officials, is expected during the two-day visit to try to secure long-term purchases of US farm and energy commodities to help shrink the US trade deficit.

The US team also wants to secure greater intellectual property protection and an end to Chinese subsidies that have contributed to overproduction of steel and aluminium. REUTERS

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