Beijing hits back at Trump after brief round of trade talks

Beijing hits back at Trump after brief round of trade talks

Beijing has hit back at Donald Trump, saying it is “meaningless” for Washington to try to pressure Beijing during trade talks, a day after the US president accused China of not negotiating in good faith.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman made the comments after trade talks between US trade representative Robert Lighthizer, Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and their Chinese counterpart, vice-premier Liu He, finished after half a day of meetings in Shanghai on Wednesday, a US official said.

The talks were the first face-to-face negotiations between the sides since Mr Trump and China’s president Xi Jinping agreed a truce in their trade war at the G20 meeting in Osaka a month ago, following a previous round of discussions that ended without a deal.

China’s official news agency Xinhua said the next set of talks would be in the US in September and described this week’s round as “frank, effective and constructive”. The two sides discussed China increasing its imports of agricultural products in line with its domestic demand and when the US created good conditions for this, Xinhua said.

In spite of Xinhua’s positive summary of the talks, expectations for a breakthrough in the negotiations have been lowered by a steady stream of mutual criticism in the lead-up to this week’s meeting.

On the eve of the talks on Tuesday, Mr Trump said there were “no signs” that China was moving ahead with promised purchases of US farm goods and suggested that its economy was “doing very badly”, as well as hinting that Beijing was not negotiating in good faith. 

China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters on Wednesday that the statement had made her “snigger”. The US should do more to show “sincerity” and “integrity”, Ms Hua said.

“At this time, for the US to show an intention of using maximum pressure is meaningless, it’s like asking someone else to take medicine to cure your own illness,” she added.

Chinese companies’ purchases of US agricultural products declined in May after trade talks fell apart.

But hopes were raised for a breakthrough this month when the US lifted additional tariffs it had imposed on 110 types of Chinese-made industrial goods. Xinhua said Chinese companies had resumed buying US soyabeans, cotton, pork and sorghum, adding that they would continue to do so depending on prices.

However, acrimony on both sides appeared to have returned this week.

The Chinese Communist party’s official newspaper, the People’s Daily, on Wednesday said the US should not “make trouble out of nothing” if it wanted the talks to be successful. The editorial said “some people” in the US were determined to make a disturbance in order to seize an advantage in talks.

“They appear to now have ‘amnesia’, and seem to have forgotten their promise for ‘equal and mutually respectful trade talks’ but rather are trying to use fear to extract concessions,” the newspaper said. 

“I think Chinese business owners and bankers don’t have so much hope for the trade talks, we’ve stopped counting how many rounds there are in the negotiations,” said Kerstin Braun, chief executive of UK-based Stenn International, a trade financing provider to Chinese consumer goods exporters.

However she said some Chinese companies were finding ways to get around the tariffs. “The Chinese mentality is very creative, and what I see really is companies finding extra doors to make shipments, they don’t give up and they find another way to do their business,” she added, citing shipping goods to the US through other markets, such as Brazil and Mexico, as examples.

Asian markets fell on Wednesday, with China-focused stocks among the worst hit. The mainland’s CSI 300 dropped 0.9 per cent, while the benchmark Hang Seng was down 1.3 per cent until trading was halted because of a tropical storm. 

Additional reporting by Siddarth Shrikanth in Hong Kong

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