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China said to cancel trade talks as tariff war escalates: report

US President Donald Trump takes part in a welcoming ceremony with China's President Xi Jinping on November 9, 2017 in Beijing. Photo: Getty Images

China has canceled planned trade discussions with the United States as both sides escalate their disputes in the wake of a new round of tariffs, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

This week, US President Donald Trump slapped a fresh round of tariffs on Chinese goods ahead of scheduled trade talks with Beijing, placing 10 percent duties on $200 billion of goods. China almost immediately retaliated with tariffs on $60 billion in US products.

A mid-level delegation from China had been due to travel to the US capital to pave the way for Chinese Vice Premier Liu He's trip, and that visit has been scrapped as well, according to the newspaper's website. Beijing is leaving open the possibility of holding fresh negotiations next month, it said.

The new tariffs brought "new uncertainties" to China-US negotiations, Gao Feng, a spokesman of China's Ministry of Commerce said, when answering a question at a press conference on Thursday on whether the countries would have a new round of trade talks.

A senior White House official said on Friday that the United States is optimistic about finding a way forward in its trade dispute with China, but it does not have a date scheduled for further talks as it assesses Beijing's response to the latest round of tariffs.

Speaking to reporters at the White House on condition of anonymity, the official said despite its protestations, China was well aware of US demands it halt what Washington considers unfair trade practices. 

"It would be 'asking for an insult,' if China went ahead with trade talks after the United States announced new tariffs and sanctions," Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University of China, said on Saturday. "In the long run, there will be talks, because the trade war will not last for thousands of years."

Earlier, the Trump administration said that it needs to confront China over its trading practices to defend US long-term interests even as the escalation risks causing pain for American consumers. Inaction would leave the US economy and consumers worse off over the longer run, a senior administration official told reporters on Friday, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

US industry has widely pushed back against the Trump administration's use of tariffs to force changes to China's economy, and companies from Walmart Inc. to Gap Inc. and Samsonite International SA have said they are prepared to raise prices if the new tariffs bite into their business.

"The new US tariffs on Chinese goods, mostly consumer-oriented, will depress spending and hurt the retail sector beginning in 2019," Seema Shah and Danielle McIntee, analysts with Bloomberg Intelligence, wrote in a note on Friday. "Lower-income families, already pinching pennies, are most exposed, given the likelihood of tariff-related price increases on everyday items."

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross earlier this week said that the tariffs are spread over such a wide range of goods that Americans should not notice price increases.

"We were trying to do things that were least intrusive on the consumer,' Ross said on CNBC on Tuesday. "We really went item-by-item trying to figure out what would accomplish the punitive purpose on China and yet with the least disruption in the US."

'More bullets'

Trump has threatened to impose even more tariffs on Chinese goods if Beijing dares to impose tit-for-tat measures in response to Washington's latest package of levies on $200 billion of Chinese exports.

Saying that the United States has "more bullets", Trump cautioned the world's second-largest economy to think twice before engaging in a trade war with the largest.

"We're going to go $200 billion at 25 percent on Chinese-made goods. And we will come back with more if they retaliate. We have a lot more to come back with," Trump told a packed rally in Missouri for Republican Senate candidate Josh Hawley on Friday.

"We are cracking down on the unfair trade practices of China… We have rebuilt China. We have given them such wealth. And we are changing it," Trump told the cheering crowd.

"So we charged 25 percent on $50 billion worth of merchandise tariffs coming in. And then they said, 'We're going to do the same thing'. And I've said: 'That is okay. We have far more bullets'."

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