As Donald Trump threatened to slap tariffs on the remaining Chinese imports unless Beijing agrees for a trade deal, a livid China on Tuesday warned the US president not to “misjudge” its determination to fight the trade war till the end.
The trade war between the world’s two largest economies escalated on Monday with China slapping tariffs on USD 60 billion worth of US imports in retaliation to Trump’s move to raise tariffs on USD 200 billion worth of Chinese goods.
Undaunted by the Chinese retaliation, Trump has threatened to clamp tariffs on the remaining Chinese imports which last year amounted to over USD 539 billion against US exports of USD 120 billion to China.
After the near collapse of trade talks with China last week, Trump on Friday imposed punitive duties on USD 200 billion worth of Chinese imports, raising them to 25 per cent from 10 per cent.
“It went up, as of Friday, very substantially. It’s 25 per cent at USD 200 billion. So now, the total is 25 per cent on USD 250 billion. In addition to that, we have another USD 325 billion that we can do if we decide to do it,” Trump said in Washington on Tuesday.
Reacting to Trump’s threats, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said, “China has repeatedly stated that raising tariffs will not solve the problem and starting trade war is detrimental to oneself and others”.
“China does not want or wish for a trade war but by no means, it is afraid of one. If someone brings the war to us we will fight it to the end. We will never succumb to any external pressure. We have the resolve and capability to defend our legitimate legal rights and interests,” Geng said in what is regarded as the strongest comments by a Chinese official since the trade war broke out between China and US in April last year.
Geng also declined to be specific about the next round of trade talks between the two countries. So far the US and China have held 11 rounds of talks.
Asked whether there is a stalemate or deadlock in the talks considering the strong rhetoric from both sides, Geng said, “after the 11th round of talks, my understanding is that the two countries have agreed to continue consultations. As to how to continue the consultations that will be determined by agreements between the two sides.”
He declined to react to Trump’s remark about his meeting with Chinese counterpart on the sidelines of the next month’s G20 summit in Japan.
“The two Presidents maintain contacts through various means and on the meeting, I have no information to offer at the moment,” he said.
Geng also said Trump should not be misjudging China’s determination to fight the trade war till the end.
On Trump’s threat to levy tariffs on the remaining Chinese imports, he said, “we hope the US will not misjudge the situation and underestimate China’s resolve to defend its rights and interests. Past experience has shown that China does not wish or want a trade war but by no means afraid of a trade war. If others bring the war to us we will fight it to the end.”
He refuted Trump’s allegation that China is going back on agreements reached in earlier rounds of talks and accused the US president of violating the consensus reached between the two sides.
“First, it is only natural to have differences in negotiations which is a process of discussion by nature. That is why we need to continue. When the consultation is still underway and agreement has not been reached how can one accuse the other of breaking promises,” he asked.
“Also, if we look back it is clear who is being capricious and breaking promises. You can check past news it is more than clear. In May last year, the two sides reached consensus and released a joint statement but a few days later the US went back on the consensus,” he said.
Also, last December the two sides reached consensus on trade procurement figures and the US side later raised questions over it, he said.
“So, it is by no means China which is backtracking and breaking promises. To reach an agreement it needs concerted attempts by both sides. China always honours its words and has shown the greatest goodwill and faith in consultation. Hope the US will work with us and meet us halfway on the basis of mutual respect, equality and good faith and strive for mutually beneficial agreement,” he said.