Abandon tariffs ‘before it’s too late’: MOFCOM

By Huang Ge Source:Global Times Published: 2018/3/29 23:33:43

US could trigger global chain reaction

China's Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) on Thursday urged the US to abandon its unilateral and protectionist practices in hopes it will strengthen efforts to address disputes through talks and negotiations.

MOFCOM spokesperson Gao Feng said China's position has been made very clear. "We do not want a trade war… but we are definitely not afraid of a trade war," Gao told reporters at a news conference. "[We] hope the US will pull back before it's too late; otherwise, we will take it to the end."

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer spoke on CNBC television Wednesday night (US time), saying that US tariffs on Chinese goods may not be imposed until early June.

Lighthizer anticipates the period for public comments on the soon-to-be published tariff list would last about 60 days, adding that the list would involve more than $50 billion dollars of "largely high-technology things." Lighthizer said the China-made products would be chosen by a computer algorithm to maximize the pain felt by Chinese exporters while minimizing the pain of US consumers, Reuters reported.

Extending the period for written public comment from 30 to 60 days sends a signal that the US hopes to negotiate with China, said Li Monan, a research fellow at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges.

Li told the Global Times on Thursday that the US may further restrict Chinese exports in an attempt to force China to open its core manufacturing sectors. China's latest manufacturing development initiative - "Made in China 2025" - aims to transform China into a manufacturing powerhouse of advanced products. The initiative has some foreign analysts worried that China might dominate certain industrial sectors.

Li predicts that "China will also resort to retaliatory tariffs on US goods" if negotiations fail.

Dong Yan, a research fellow with the Institute of World Economics and Politics under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that China's counter tariffs are likely to include US agricultural products and aircraft.

The US' tariffs on Chinese goods violate WTO rules and neglect the multilateral trade system, MOFCOM spokesperson Gao said, adding that such bad conduct on behalf of the US could trigger a chain reaction of trade protectionism around the world.

"China's determination and confidence regarding its opening-up has not changed and has become more resolute, and that direction will not change due to external pressure," Gao said.

Different treatment

South Korean Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong and Lighthizer released a joint statement on Wednesday, saying the two countries reached an agreement in principle on the terms of amending their free trade agreement (FTA), including an exemption of tariffs on Korean steel, South Korean news site koreaherald.com reported.

"The US relates trade to national security and industrial competition," Dong said, adding that the country offers an exemption of tariffs on Korean steel because their close relationship in national security.

"It is unlikely that China will be treated the same way," as the US regards China as a competitor, Dong said.

Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso on Thursday ruled out opening talks on a free trade agreement with the US, saying that such a deal would do Japan no good, Reuters reported.

Posted in: DIPLOMACY

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