No one wants a trade war, says China

Chinese Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan speaks at a press conference in Beijing

A trade war between China and the United States would be disastrous not only for the two countries involved, but also the rest of the world, Beijing warned on Sunday.

Zhong also took issue with the statistics behind the trade imbalance - which showed a record US$375.2 billion (RM1.5 trillion) U.S. deficit with China during Trump's first year in office.

Part of the reason for the trade gap, Zhong said, was that the U.S. had restricted hi-tech exports to China.

The deficit could be reduced by 35 percent if the United States eased export controls on high-technology products to China, he said, citing unspecified USA research.

Zhong said nobody wants to fight a trade war, but he added that China can handle any challenge and will resolutely protect its interests.

Liu He, a senior Chinese economic and financial official met with USA officials earlier this month and they have agreed that the two countries should settle their trade disputes by cooperation rather than confrontation.

Chinese leaders have threatened in the past to retaliate against raised trade barriers, but have yet to take direct action following Trump's announcement.

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As China's exports surged in February its monthly surplus with the U.S. widened from a year earlier to $20.96 billion, according to data from the customs bureau.

President Xi Jinping's top economic advisor Liu He held trade discussions with USA officials at the White House earlier this month but the meetings yielded few breakthroughs.

The two sides haven't halted economic dialogues and will continue the exchanges, the minister stressed. But Zhong said communications have not been completely broken off.

The ministry will continue to control FDI, he said, while at the same time encouraging companies with strength and credibility to explore the global market and improve their ability in transnational operations. "If they drop their horrific barriers & tariffs on United States products going in, we will likewise drop ours. The outcome will only be harmful", Foreign Minister Wang Yi said. "As a close security and trade partner of the USA, the European Union must be excluded from the announced measures", she said.

The comments came a week after US President Donald Trump announced heavy trade tariffs of 25 per cent for steel and 10 per cent for aluminium.

Trump has called the tariffs a matter of national security while threatening to tax European auto imports and impose "reciprocal taxes" on countries that charge higher duties on U.S. goods than the United States now charges on their products.

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