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'Issues' placed on table now, it's time to negotiate and cooperate, says Chinese official
After Washington released a long list of Chinese products on which it planned to impose punitive tariffs on Wednesday, China has fought back almost immediately by announcing to slap an additional 25 percent tariffs on its proposed list of 106 US imports including soybeans, cars and planes.

While an all-out trade war looms large as the tit-for-tat actions continue to escalate, China's high-ranking treasury official responded in a follow-up State Council press conference that although both the lists have not yet taken effect, the two parties have laid their “issues” on the table and it's time to “negotiate and cooperate”.

In the morning of Wednesday (Beijing time), Washington made public a list of 1,333 Chinese exports to the US worth $50 billion annually on which it plans to levy an additional 25 percent tariff. The tariffs are a response to what the Trump administration accuses to be “theft of technology” practices. And, most of the items included in the US list are identified by the US Trade Representative's office as benefiting from Chinese industrial policies, including Made in China 2025.

In the afternoon of the same day, China struck back with its cabinet, the State Council deciding to impose an additional 25 percent tariffs on 106 US products including soybeans, cars and planes which China had spent about $50 billion to imports in 2017. Just as Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to the US, promised a day before, China “will certainly take countermeasures of the same proportion and of the same scale, same intensity.”

Soon after the afternoon announcement, the State Council Information Office arranged a press meeting to have Zhu Guangyao, the vice minister of finance and Wang Shouwen, the vice minister of commerce, address the media about the recent China-US trade frictions.

When asked about the “trade war”, Zhu emphasized although the tariffs have not yet taken effect, the two parties have laid their “issues” on the table, it's time to negotiate a cooperation, and the precondition for dialogue is “mutual respect”.

“A reporter asked (if we're in) trade frictions or a 'trade war'. We're showing our sword to each other, put forward requirements, based on which, our two parties (should) properly solve the trade disputes including protection of intellectual property rights through consultation on an equal footing,” Zhu said, noting China aims to develop a society of innovation, so the IP protection is a top priority.

About the trade war concerns, Wang answered, “to put it simply, if someone wants to fight (a war), we keep (his) company and (fight) to the finish. If someone wants to talk, the door is open.”

Several hours later after Beijing's action, US President Trump took to Twitter again, denying his country was in a trade war with China. “We are not in a trade war with China...but that it (the US) had a trade deficit of $500 billion a year and intellectual property theft of another $300 billion,” he wrote, “we cannot let this continue!”

In response to Trump's earlier twitter post asking China to reduce its trade surplus with the US by $100 billion annually, Wang said it is not something the Chinese government could control. He analyzed the trade imbalance between the two countries is decided by their different economic structures and industrial competitiveness.

“Why is there imbalance in China-US trade? First, it's the problem with the US economic structure—high consumption, less savings and more investment—that means it must have trade deficit with many countries, not just China. Second, the dollar’s position as the international payment currency demands the country to maintain comparatively big trade deficit in bid to secure its currency's position.”

Wang emphasized the third reason is the US has long banned exports in its many cutting-edge high-tech industries to China. Talking about bilateral trade figures, he indicated China's surplus with the US is not that big but merely one third of the figure claimed by the US as its deficit with China, if statistical methods, transit trade and service trade all are factored in.

In its Section 301 investigation into alleged Chinese “theft of technology” and forced IP transfer, the US Trade Representative's office has reportedly questioned China's Made in China 2015 initiative, an industrial plan aimed to upgrading the country's manufacturing sector.

Addressing similar concerns, Wang emphasized Made in China 2015 is an open, transparent and non-discriminative system. He invited foreign and private companies in China to partake in the plan, while noting the Ministry of Commerce had already investigated compliance matters and were assured it is in line with the WTO rules.

Wang confirmed the plan has devised some predictive and instructional indicators instead of mandatory tasks. It is no different to the European Union's industry revival plan, he said.


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