BEIJING/WASHINGTON – China on Thursday vowed to counter the latest U.S. tariffs on $300 billion of Chinese goods but called on the United States to meet it halfway on a potential trade deal, while U.S. President Donald Trump said any pact would have to be on America’s terms.
China’s finance ministry said in a statement that Washington’s tariffs, set to start next month, violated a consensus reached between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at a June summit in Japan to resolve their disputes via negotiation.
In a separate statement, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said, “We hope the U.S. will meet China halfway, and implement the consensus of the two heads of the two countries in Osaka.”
China hopes to find mutually acceptable solutions through dialogue and consultation on the basis of equality and mutual respect, she added.
Trump, who is seeking re-election in 2020 and had made the economy and his tough stance on China a key part of his 2016 campaign for the White House, said on Thursday that any agreement must meet U.S. demands.
“China, frankly, would love to make a deal, and it’s got to be a deal on proper terms. It’s got to be a deal, frankly, on our terms. Otherwise, what’s the purpose?” Trump said in an interview on New Hampshire radio station WGIR.
The trade picture is further complicated by continuing unrest in Hong Kong, which Trump on Wednesday tied to any possible agreement, saying Xi must first work out the situation in the territory with protesters.
On Thursday, he used Twitter to call on the Chinese president to personally meet with protesters to spur “a happy and enlightened ending to the Hong Kong problem.”
Trump and Xi in June had agreed to restart trade talks after negotiations stalled earlier this year. But earlier this month the Trump administration said it would apply duties from Sept. 1 on $300 billion of Chinese goods — effectively covering all of China’s exports to the United States.
Trump backed off part of the plan this week, delaying duties on certain items such as cellphones, laptops and other consumer goods, in the hopes of blunting their impact on U.S. holiday sales. Tariffs will still apply to those products from mid-December.
The move has roiled global markets and further unnerved investors as the trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies stretches into its second year with no end in sight.
In a radio interview on Thursday, Trump dismissed investors’ concerns.
“We had a couple of bad days but … we’re going to have some very good days because we had to take on China,” he told WGIR.
Trump also said Thursday that U.S. and Chinese negotiators were holding “productive” trade talks and that he expected them to meet in September.
“September, the meeting is still on as I understand it, but I think more importantly than September, we’re talking by phone, and we’re having very productive talks,” Trump told reporters in New Jersey.
He said U.S. and Chinese officials had “a very good conversation” earlier this week before his administration delayed the tariffs.