Caixin
Mar 28, 2018 04:51 PM
ECONOMY

U.S. Threatened Tariffs to Spur China to Honor Promises: Ambassador

Imported medical equipment is used at a hospital in Chongqing on July 8. Photo: VCG
Imported medical equipment is used at a hospital in Chongqing on July 8. Photo: VCG

The U.S. threatened hefty tariffs on Chinese goods to urge China to make good on promises to open its markets, the top American diplomat in China said Tuesday.

Although China has been repeating its intentions to do so, “we have not seen the action on the promises that have been made and certainly not quick enough,” Terry Branstad, U.S. ambassador to China, said at a press conference in Beijing on Tuesday. “The goal is to try to get that to happen sooner.”

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International investors are closely monitoring the latest developments in the trade tiff between China and the U.S. The situation eased after news broke late last week that the two parties were in secret discussions to hash out some of their differences.

To address the trade imbalance, Branstad suggested that China could increase its imports of U.S. pharmaceuticals, high-end medical devices and clean fuels such as liquefied natural gas and ethanol gasoline. In return, the U.S. could help China improve the quality of life of its people and help the government fight air pollution.

He also revealed that Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, President Xi Jinping’s top economic advisor, as well as U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will lead the trade talks.

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The two parties have 30 days to negotiate a solution to avoid the tariffs. On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a presidential memorandum that threatened to impose tariffs on up to $60 billion worth of Chinese goods.

The U.S. is looking forward to outcomes that could give it more access to the Chinese market and create a fair playing field for U.S. companies operating in China, Branstad said.

During a meeting with a U.S. congressional delegation on Tuesday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said it’s impossible to find quick solutions for long-term trade issues, the Xinhua News Agency reported. Li said a trade war is not a solution to the problem and runs afoul of basic trade rules.

Over the weekend, Secretary Mnuchin said that the tariffs could be avoided if Beijing and Washington can come to an agreement on outstanding trade issues.

Meanwhile, the Chinese state-run Global Times reported that China will soon compile a reprisal list targeting U.S. goods — the latest sign that China has tough measures in store if the U.S. goes through with its tariff plan.

Fears of a trade war have clouded the business outlook of U.S.-based companies that export to China. The stock of Hong Kong-listed Chinese firm WH, which acquired U.S. pork producer Smithfield Food in 2013, tumbled as trade tensions ratcheted up.

At a press conference Monday in Hong Kong for its annual financial results, WH Group downplayed the effect of a prospective trade war, but also said it was looking to expand into other markets to cushion it from any potential loss in a trade war.

Contact reporter Pan Che (chepan@caixin.com)

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