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China preps tariff response as Trump sees a Xi call 'very soon'

Aug 18 2019 17:49
Bloomberg News
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech dur

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech during the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 20, 2018. (NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP)

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China called looming US tariffs a violation of accords reached by Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping, vowing retaliation as Beijing also pushed back on Trump’s effort to link the trade war with the turmoil in Hong Kong.

Trump on Thursday said he had a call coming soon with Xi.

The plans for 10% tariffs on an additional $300bn in Chinese imports have taken the US and China off the track of resolving their dispute through negotiation, the State Council Tariff Committee, which has overseen tit-for-tat retaliation, said in a short statement on Thursday. China "has no choice but to take necessary measures to retaliate", it said, without specifying what the nation would do.

Separately, a foreign affairs ministry spokesperson expressed hope that the US would leave Hong Kong as an internal matter for the Chinese government to deal with. Trump said on Thursday that an agreement with China has to be on "our terms", according to Fox Business.

The US president later told reporters in Morristown, New Jersey, that he has a call scheduled "very soon" with Xi over trade. "They would like to do something," Trump said, without elaborating.

US stocks finished the day higher after getting whipsawed throughout the session as Treasury yields plummeted to levels unseen in years. Trade headlines set investors on edge, though volatility has gripped markets for most of August since Trump escalated his spat with China.

Trump announced the tariffs set for September 1 and December 15. China has halted purchases of agricultural goods and allowed the yuan to weaken. Still, top negotiators held a phone call earlier this week and the US delayed the imposition of some of the new import taxes.Negotiators also agreed to have another call in the coming two weeks and people familiar said earlier the Chinese delegation is sticking to their plan to travel to the US in September for face-to-face meetings.

China’s statement indicates that Beijing doesn’t think the US delaying some of the tariffs is enough, said Zhou Xiaoming, a former Ministry of Commerce official and diplomat. China is sticking to the position that no new duties should be imposed at all, he said, adding that China’s retaliation “may not be limited to tariffs.”

Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of the Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper, echoed that sentiment. He tweeted before the Thursday announcement that China wants both sides to respect the consensus reached when Trump and Xi met in Osaka in June. "I doubt the Chinese side will resume large-scale purchase of US farm goods under the current circumstances," he said. 

Less than 12 hours before the Chinese statement on retaliation, Trump appeared to float the possibility of another meeting with Xi. In a flurry of tweets, he defended his tariff decisions, praised Xi and urged the Chinese president to "humanely" resolve the protests that have gripped Hong Kong for more than two months.

"Of course China wants to make a trade deal," Trump wrote. "Let them work humanely with Hong Kong first!" China doesn’t want external advice on how to deal with Hong Kong.

"Hong Kong is purely China’s internal affair. We have noticed that President Trump has previously said that ‘Hong Kong is part of China and they’ll have to deal with that themselves. They don’t need advice," China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a written comments to a question about Trump’s tweet.

"We hope that the US side will do as what they say."

China’s position on the trade negotiations has been consistent and clear, Hua said, adding that China hopes the US can meet halfway and implement the consensus of the two leaders in Osaka, "and find mutually acceptable solutions through dialogue and consultation, on the basis of equality and mutual respect."

Trump ended his Twitter post with an apparent overture to Xi - writing "Personal meeting?" - without clarifying whether he was suggesting another summit.

Hua said the two leaders "have always kept in touch through meetings, calls, and letters." 

xi jinping  |  donald trump  |  china  |  us  |  trade war
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