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China Calls Off Trade Talks, Won’t Go to Washington Until After Mid-Terms

Haze Fan
The sun begins to set over the Yangshan Deep Water Port in this aerial photograph taken in Shanghai, China, on Tuesday, July 10, 2018. China told companies to boost imports of goods from soybeans to seafood and automobiles from countries other than the U.S. after trade tensions between the world's two biggest economies escalated into a tariff war last week. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

China has called off planned trade talks with the U.S. and is unlikely to sit down with Washington until after the mid-term elections, according to people familiar with the situation.

Beijing has withdrawn a planned delegation to Washington next week, the people told Bloomberg. The Wall Street Journal earlier reported that China had scrapped plans to send Vice-Premier Liu He and a mid-level delegation.

In addition to new tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods set to go into effect Sept. 24, the U.S. State Department sanctions against China’s defense agency and its director on Thursday contributed to the ultimate decision to cancel the talks, the people said.

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“It would be ‘asking for an insult,’ if China went ahead with trade talks after the US announced new tariffs and sanctions,” Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University of China, said Saturday. “In the long run, there will be talks, because the trade war won’t last for thousands of years.”

In his push for what he calls a level playing field in dealing with China, President Donald Trump slapped the new tariffs on imports from China and threatened more if Beijing retaliated. On Tuesday, China said it would impose levies on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods effective Sept. 24.

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The new tariffs brought “new uncertainties” to China-U.S. negotiations, Gao Feng, a spokesman for 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. He used exactly the same wording the ministry used in an earlier statement.

No Response

The Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Finance didn’t respond to faxes inquiring about the matter on Saturday.

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

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U.S. 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’re prepared to raise prices if the new tariffs bite into their business.

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Trump’s biggest strike yet in a growing trade fight between the world’s biggest economies will see a 10 percent duty applied to $200 billion of Chinese imports, which could rise to 25 percent next year. He’s threatened duties on a further $267 billion of made-in-China goods, which would hit almost all other consumer products including mobile phones, shoes and clothes.

The latest round of duties comes on top of a 25 percent tariff already imposed on about $50 billion in Chinese goods, which spurred counter-tariffs from Beijing.

Trump’s Stand

Trump continued to hit out at China late this week, signaling the trade war won’t end any time soon.

“It’s time to take a stand on China,” he said in an interview Thursday with Fox News. ”We have no choice. It’s been a long time. They’re hurting us.”

“The new U.S. 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.”

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross earlier this week said the tariffs are spread over such a wide range of goods that Americans shouldn’t 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 U.S.”

Adds professor’s comment in fourth paragraph.

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