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China urges trade talks as US hints at hope

Writer:   | Editor: Lily A  | From:  | Updated: 2018-03-30

CHINA on Thursday urged the United States to abandon unilateralism and protectionism, and resort to dialogue and consultation to handle disagreements.

Gao Feng, spokesman with China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOC), made the remarks in the wake of the U.S. decision to extend the period for public comment on its tariffs on Chinese goods from 30 days to 60 days.

“China is always open for negotiations,” Gao said, but emphasized sticking to the principles of equality, constructiveness and balance that need joint efforts.

Last Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a memorandum that could impose tariffs on up to US$50 billion of imports from China and restrictions on Chinese investment in the United States.

The memorandum is based on a Section 301 investigation, launched by the Trump administration in August 2017, into alleged Chinese intellectual property and technology transfer practices.

As for the U.S. side, Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer said Wednesday that “there’s hope” that trade talks between the United States and China could lead to a fruitful outcome.

In an interview with CNBC, Lighthizer said the USTR’s Office would announce a list of Chinese goods subject to potential tariffs “before very long,” based on the so-called Section 301 investigation against alleged Chinese technology transfer practices.

“Then we’ll go through a 60-day period where we’ll give the public a chance to comment on the good and the bad things in there,” he said, signaling that the Trump administration is unlikely to impose tariffs on Chinese goods until early June.

Gao also said the U.S. tariff proposals on imported steel risk triggering a chain reaction of protectionism across the world.

“The practices of the United States have opened a Pandora’s box,” Gao said, when asked to comment on trade remedy measures and investigations by the EU and Japan.

Excess production is a global issue and therefore needs all countries to work together, Gao said.

“The solution is not to close doors, but to open them, deepen cooperation, and make use of our respective advantages to increase our common interests,” he stressed.

The spokesperson said China hopes all WTO members will pull together, be unaffected by the practices of individual members, and resolutely oppose protectionism.

The China Iron and Steel Association (CISA) has expressed its hope to better communicate with industrial associations and companies in the EU and other countries to maintain stability in the world steel market.

The statement came after the EU also began a probe into imported steel. The EU decision will add to market anxiety and instability, in a situation complicated by the United States stirring up trouble.

Chinese steel manufacturers have been reducing their production capacity, and the global steel market is recovering. “The measures taken by the United States and the EU could cause chaos,” said Liu Zhenjiang, secretary-general of the CISA.

“We hope the EU will evaluate the impact of U.S. tariffs and take measures prudently,” said Liu.

The CISA also urged the Chinese Government to take measures to prevent the domestic market from being hurt by imported steel and protect the interests of local steel manufacturers.

Despite worldwide objections, the U.S. Government decided to impose a 25-percent tariff on steel imports and a 10-percent tariff on aluminum, with tariffs on imports from countries including China.

“The move at the excuse of protecting the domestic steel industry goes against the rules of the World Trade Organization and disrupts international trade order,” said Liu.

The U.S. move damages not only the world iron and steel industry, but also the interests of consumers, especially American consumers, he said.