China lowers tariffs, rejects US trade war escalation
China said Thursday it wanted to avoid an escalation of trade tensions with the United States, as the two sides held new talks and Beijing decided to lower some tariffs.
The overture came two days after the White House said its planned trade sanctions against China were still in the works despite the announcement of a truce following a previous round of talks earlier in May.
China has threatened to hit back with tit-for-tat tariffs on tens of billions of dollars in US goods.
A 50-strong US delegation arrived in Beijing on Wednesday for follow-up meetings, Chinese commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng said, without proving more details.
“We hope that China and US economic and trade cooperation can benefit people in both countries, and we are not willing to see trade frictions escalate,”
Gao told a regular press briefing.
The delegation is laying the groundwork for a weekend visit by US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
The Trump administration said Tuesday that US sanctions announced in March — including restrictions on Chinese investment, export controls and 25 percent tariffs on as much as $50 billion in Chinese tech exports — remain under development.
Gao slammed the proposal, saying US measures to implement investment restrictions and export controls against China “do not conform with the basic principles and spirits of the WTO (World Trade Organization)”.
“China will carefully evaluate the US measures and relevant impact and retain its rights to adopt relative measures.”
Separately, the Chinese government announced in a statement late Wednesday that it would further cut import tariffs on daily consumer goods from July 1.
The average tariff on clothing, shoes and hats, kitchenware, and sports and fitness supplies will be reduced from 15.9 percent to 7.1 percent.
The rate for home appliances such as washing machines and refrigerators will be lowered from 20.5 percent to eight percent.
– ‘No forced tech transfers’ –
Gao said China will also publish a “negative list” of foreign investment by June 30 to ease restrictions in fields including energy, resources, infrastructure and transportation. A negative list includes all the industries with foreign investment restrictions.
Beijing previously said it would relax restrictions on foreign investment in automobiles, shipbuilding and aircraft firms.
At a meeting Wednesday chaired by Premier Li Keqiang, the State Council — or cabinet — also decided that China would widen market access through more foreign investor-friendly measures, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
“We should raise our innovation capacity in the new round of opening up and see that all intellectual property be fully protected,” Li said.
“No forced technology transfer will ever be imposed on foreign-invested enterprises and IPR (intellectual property rights) infringements will be penalised to the full extent of the law.”
Donald Trump has accused China of forcing US firms to hand over their industrial secrets to Chinese firms in order to do business in the country, a charge that Beijing has rejected.
In other measures announced by Xinhua, overseas traders will be encouraged to participate in crude oil and iron ore futures trading.
Severe measures will be taken to punish infringements, counterfeiting, commercial secret violators and trademark squatters.