Thu, Aug 02, 2018 - Page 1 News List

US ratchets up tariff threats to push China into talks


China yesterday responded to a report that the US is trying to force officials back to the negotiating table through threats of even higher tariffs by saying that “blackmailing and pressuring” would never work.

US President Donald Trump’s administration is considering more than doubling its planned tariffs on US$200 billion in Chinese imports, people familiar with the internal deliberations said.

Washington had threatened an additional US$200 billion with levies of 10 percent, a level the administration might raise to 25 percent in a Federal Register notice in coming days, one of the people said.

At the same time, representatives of US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He (劉鶴) are having private conversations as they look for ways to re-engage in negotiations, according to people who spoke about the deliberations on condition of anonymity.

Holding an open door to talks while threatening worse consequences represents yet another increase in tension in the months-long standoff over trade between the world’s two largest economies.

While the conflict nominally centers around the US’ US$375 billion annual goods trade deficit with China, it has morphed into a chapter in the nations’ broader strategic rivalry.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it would fight back should the US further increase tariffs.

“If the US takes measures to further escalate the situation, we will surely take countermeasures to uphold our legitimate rights and interests,” ministry spokesman Geng Shuang (耿爽) said at a regular press conference yesterday.

He said China has always believed that the disputes should be resolved through talks and communication, but the dialogue should be based on “equality and respect as well as established rules and credibility.”

In a sign the trade standoff is reverberating through Chinese politics, the Politburo on Tuesday signaled that policymakers would focus more on supporting economic growth amid risks from a campaign to reduce debt and the dispute with Trump.

The communique, which followed a meeting of the nation’s most senior leaders, led by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), said that the campaign to reduce leverage would continue at a measured pace while improving economic policies to make them more forward-looking, flexible and effective in the second half of the year.

The public comment period on the US tariffs aimed at US$200 billion ends on Aug. 30 after public hearings on Aug. 20 to Aug. 23, according to the Office of the US Trade Representative.

Announcing a higher tariff is required ahead of the hearings and will send a signal that the Trump administration is upping the pressure on China to make serious concessions.

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