China and the United States are discussing the next round of face-to-face trade talks scheduled in September, but hopes for progress hinge on whether Washington can create favourable conditions, China’s commerce ministry said on Thursday.
In the latest tit-for-tat escalation of the trade war between the world’s two largest economies, US President Donald Trump last Friday said he would heap an additional duty of 5% on about $550 billion in targeted Chinese goods.
The move came hours after China had unveiled retaliatory tariffs on $75-billion worth of US goods.
China hopes the United States can cancel the planned additional tariffs to avoid an escalation in the trade war, its commerce ministry spokesman, Gao Feng, told reporters on Thursday.
“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 United States.
For two years, the Trump administration has sought to pressure China to eliminate what it calls unfair trade practices and make sweeping changes to its policies on intellectual property protection, forced transfers of technology to Chinese firms, industrial subsidies and market access.
But China has constantly denied such accusations, vowing to fight back in kind and criticizing US measures as protectionist.
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.
China has repeatedly said it would have no choice but to retaliate if the United States followed through on its threat.
On Monday, Trump predicted a trade deal with China, saying he believed it was sincere about wanting to reach a deal, citing what he called increasing economic pressure on Beijing and job losses there.
Trump cited as a positive sign comments by Vice Premier Liu He, who has been leading the talks with Washington, that China was willing to resolve the dispute through “calm” negotiations.
He repeated his assertion that Chinese officials had contacted US trade counterparts overnight, offering to resume negotiations, a statement that China declined to confirm.
Gao also declined to provide any detail when asked if there had been a call this week between Beijing and Washington.
“As far as I know, both trade teams have maintained effective communication,” he said.
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.
“We hope the United States will show sincerity and concrete actions,” Gao said.