Chinese negotiators still eye US trip despite Trump
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BEIJING (AFP) – China said yesterday it still plans to send negotiators to the United States (US) for trade talks even after US President Donald Trump vowed to raise tariffs later this week, a threat that sent stock markets into a tailspin.

Trump upped the ante as negotiators prepared to meet in Washington tomorrow for what has been billed as a last-ditch round of negotiations to reach a deal or revive the trade war.

“The Trade Deal with China continues, but too slowly, as they attempt to renegotiate. No!” Trump wrote on Twitter last Sunday.

He picked up the issue again yesterday, tweeting: “With China we lose 500 Billion Dollars. Sorry, we’re not going to be doing that anymore!”

The US leader said tariffs on USD200 billion in Chinese goods would increase from 10 per cent to 25 per cent on Friday. The US is already applying custom duties of 25 per cent on USD50 billion in Chinese high-tech products.

Trump also renewed a threat to impose tariffs on all Chinese imports to the US – worth USD539.5 billion last year.

Despite Trump’s tweetstorm, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said a Chinese team was “currently preparing to go to the US for negotiations” – but he did not say when or whether top negotiator Liu He would lead the delegation.

Geng said “positive progress” has been made in 10 rounds of high-level negotiations and that the whole world was watching.

“We still hope that the US can work together with China, walk shoulder to shoulder and strive for a mutually beneficial win-win agreement on the basis of mutual respect,” he said at a regular press briefing. “This is not only in line with the interests of the Chinese side but also the interests of the US and the international community.”

The Wall Street Journal had earlier reported that China was considering cancelling the talks.

“China shouldn’t negotiate with a gun pointed to its head,” the newspaper quoted a person briefed on the matter as saying, using a line Beijing has repeatedly said in the past.

The two sides have imposed tariffs on USD360 billion in two-way trade since last year. But Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed to a truce last December to refrain from further escalation.

The US side visited Beijing last week for talks that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin described as “productive”.

“We are currently working on understanding the situation,” Geng added yesterday.