China ‘still discussing’ next round of trade war talks with US amid escalating tensions as new tariffs loom

China ‘still discussing’ next round of trade war talks with US amid escalating tensions as new tariffs loom

China has lodged a formal diplomatic complaint with latest tariff increases by US President Donald Trump set to come into force this weekend

China and the United States are “still discussing” whether a Chinese trade delegation will travel to Washington in September to conduct the next round of face-to-face negotiations as part of the escalating trade war, China’s commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng said on Thursday.

His comments came hours after US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin refused to confirm whether the scheduled trade talks would take place next month.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Mnuchin said that “we’re planning for them to come” without revealing any details after the latest threats of retaliatory tariffsfrom both sides last week raised questions about the progress of the talks.

Gao also confirmed that trade representatives from both sides had maintained “effective communications” since the last round of face-to-face talks in Shanghai at the end of July, but did not say whether a phone call between top trade negotiators had taken place in the past week.

China’s Vice-Premier Liu He, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Mnuchin held a telephone conversation on August 13, with China’s commerce ministry stating at the time that the next call would take place two weeks later, a time frame which passed this week.

News of the ongoing discussions comes after the trade conflict between the two countries escalated last week after China announced retaliatory tariffs against the US, which responded with a plan to further increase tariffs on Chinese products.

US President Donald Trump softened his tone on Monday, saying a phone conversation had taken place and China was eager to strike a deal, however, China’s foreign ministry said it had no information that such a call had taken place.

At Thursday’s regular press conference, Gao said China had already lodged “solemn representation” over Trump’s plan to increase tariffs on all Chinese products, a diplomatic term meaning a formal complaint or protest.

Gao also maintained China’s hard line, saying that it had “sufficient means” to retaliate against any increase in US tariffs.

“The most important thing now is to create the necessary conditions for continuing the negotiations,” he said. “What should be discussed now is that the US must call off its plan to impose [additional] tariffs on US$550 billion worth of Chinese products to avoid a further escalation in the trade dispute.”

 News of the ongoing discussions comes after the trade conflict between the two countries escalated last week after China announced retaliatory tariffs against the US, which responded with a plan to further increase tariffs on Chinese products.

US President Donald Trump softened his tone on Monday, saying a phone conversation had taken place and China was eager to strike a deal, however, China’s foreign ministry said it had no information that such a call had taken place.

At Thursday’s regular press conference, Gao said China had already lodged “solemn representation” over Trump’s plan to increase tariffs on all Chinese products, a diplomatic term meaning a formal complaint or protest.

Gao also maintained China’s hard line, saying that it had “sufficient means” to retaliate against any increase in US tariffs.

“The most important thing now is to create the necessary conditions for continuing the negotiations,” he said. “What should be discussed now is that the US must call off its plan to impose [additional] tariffs on US$550 billion worth of Chinese products to avoid a further escalation in the trade dispute.”

China’s state media continued its rhetoric against the US on Thursday. A commentary by Xinhua said Trump’s call for US companies to move out of China was shortsighted, and would harm their development. Another, by the Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily, said China was not afraid of Washington’s threats but said the trade dispute could be resolved through dialogue.

On Friday, Trump said that US tariffs on US$250 billion of Chinese products already in place would be raised from 25 per cent to 30 per cent, while new levies on an additional US$300 billion of Chinese goods expected to be implemented on September 1 and December 15, would see their rate increased by 5 per cent to 15 per cent.

The move came in response to China’s announcement that it would impose retaliatory tariffs of between 5 and 10 per cent on US$75 billion worth of American products, including soybeans, pork and, for the first time, crude oil, after the US threatened to increase tariffs on some Chinese goods from September.

China also reinstated the 25 per cent penalty duty on imports of US-made cars and car parts, bringing the total tariff on the sector to 40 per cent.

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