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Not Afraid To Fight Trade War With US – China Says

BEIJING (Alliance News) – After the White House brought tariffs on Chinese imports back on the table, reigniting a months-long conflict, Beijing said Wednesday it was not afraid to fight a trade war.

“China does not want to fight but is not afraid to fight a trade war,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

She added the US move to impose a 25% tariff on 50 billion dollars worth of Chinese goods was “contrary to the consensuses” the countries had reached previously in Washington.

The White House announced late Tuesday the tariffs would be imposed on a list of products to be issued by June 15. It was thus reverting an earlier decision to put trade frictions and tariffs “on hold.”

The surprise announcement, preceding a planned visit to Beijing this weekend by US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, “is both unexpected and within expectation,” the Chinese Commerce Ministry said.

The threatened tariffs are in fact a “negotiating step” ahead of the US trade delegation’s visit to Beijing, the American Chamber of Commerce in China said Wednesday.

“We don’t believe tariffs are the appropriate way to proceed,” Lester Ross, chairman of AmCham China’s policy committee told journalists, adding that tariffs would ultimately constitute a tax on US consumers.

“However, tariffs or the threat of tariffs are a very useful, a very powerful negotiating tactic,” he said. “And to the extent that they have helped bring China to the negotiating table in a more serious way than has been the case in the past, then we think that is very useful.”

Earlier this month, Vice Premier Liu He travelled to Washington to defuse tensions on issues such as intellectual property theft, government subsidies and import tariffs.

The US had agreed to suspend the implementation of tariffs on 150 billion dollars’ worth of Chinese imports while negotiations continue. At the same time, China promised to boost US imports, particularly in agriculture and energy, and reduce the countries’ trade deficit.

The state-run tabloid Global Times said Washington’s announcement to reinstate the tariffs was “shocking” for China, and that “a full-blown trade war would be inevitable” if the US went ahead with its implementation.

“Breaking a promise for the purposes of landing a better deal is a bad habit for Washington to develop, and it is something China won’t allow,” the tabloid said.

China will take “resolute and effective measures” to safeguard its interests, Hua said.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Wednesday called on China and the US to settle their dispute.

“We think it’s important that both sides try to collaborate, to de-escalate and avoid any kind of tensions,” IMF representative Alfred Schipke told journalists in Beijing.

The trade frictions are indirectly affecting the countries’ consumers, investors and the financial markets, he said.

“These trade tensions are not beneficial for anybody,” Schipke said, as he presented the results of the IMF’s annual mission to China.

The IMF maintained its 6.6% growth forecast for China’s GDP this year, down from 6.9% last year. By 2023, the world’s second-largest economy is expected to slow down to a 5.5% annual growth rate.

China needs to ensure a level playing field for domestic and foreign companies, and better protect intellectual property rights, the IMF said.

The fact that the US is willing to risk disruptions in its relations with China shows “how seriously it views China’s cybertheft, as well as its forced technology transfer and discriminatory industrial policies,” AmCham’s annual white paper stated.

US companies in China have major concerns regarding the lack of a level playing field for domestic and foreign companies, Lester Ross said.

“China doesn’t feel an obligation to open up more widely to foreign competitors,” he said.

According to a recent AmCham survey, 46% of respondents said they were being treated unfairly compared to local companies, while 75% of US companies in China said they felt less welcome than in the past.

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