A Chinese commerce official said Thursday that China would not back down from a trade row heating up with the United States and its president, Donald Trump.
“I hope some people in the U.S do not misjudge the situation,” Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng told reporters. “If the United States takes any action to escalate the situation, China will not hesitate to fight back.”
Gao was responding to questions about remarks made Tuesday by Chinese President Xi Jinping suggesting the country would open up its economy and decrease tariffs on some imported items like cars.
On Twitter, Trump said he was “very thankful” for Xi’s remarks, adding the two countries would “make great progress together!”
Gao said Xi’s statements, however, were about the ongoing commotion surrounding trade between the two countries, hinting that Trump had mischaracterized Xi’s attitude.
During a meeting Thursday with state governors and other lawmakers, Trump said Xi’s speech earlier in the week meant that China would soon remove some trade barriers, “maybe all of them”, he believed.
“We’re doing really well with China,” Trump told reporters. “I think we’re having some great discussions, and we’ll see what happens.”
During his remarks, Trump reiterated criticisms against China he made earlier in the week about the latter’s 25 percent import duties on automobiles. Trump maintained that it was not fair because the U.S. only charges a 2.5 percent tariff on imported Chinese vehicles.
Gao noted that international economic rules set by the World Trade Organization do not call for tariffs to be the same between trading nations.
Also on Thursday, the White House confirmed that it is reappraising the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement signed in 2016 between the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim nations. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agreement last year and it was never ratified.
A White House spokeswoman said Trump is “open to a substantially better deal”.
Notably, China is not part of the TPP.
By Barry Eitel in San Francisco