China to go ahead with US trade talks
Chinese delegation still preparing to go to the US to continue talks
BEIJING/WASHINGTON China said yesterday that a delegation is still preparing to go to the US for trade talks, after President Donald Trump dramatically increased pressure on Beijing to reach a deal, saying he would hike tariffs on Chinese goods this week.
Mr Trump's comments on Sunday marked a major escalation in tensions between the world's largest economies, and a shift in tone from the President, who as recently as Friday had cited progress toward a deal.
Stock markets sank and oil prices tumbled on his remarks, as negotiations to end the months-long trade war were thrown into doubt.
"We are also in the process of understanding the relevant situation. What I can tell you is that China's team is preparing to go to the United States for the discussions," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a news briefing.
But Mr Geng did not say if Vice-Premier Liu He, who is China's lead official in the negotiations, was to be part of the delegation as originally planned.
"What is of vital importance is that we still hope the United States can work hard with China to meet each other half way, and strive to reach a mutually beneficial, win-win agreement on the basis of mutual respect," Mr Geng said.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier that China was considering cancelling this week's meetings in Washington in light of Mr Trump's comments, which took Chinese officials by surprise.
A less than rosy update from US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, including details that China was pulling back from some previous commitments, prompted Mr Trump's decision.
"The Trade Deal with China continues, but too slowly, as they attempt to renegotiate. No!" Mr Trump said in a tweet.
Mr Trump said tariffs on US$200 billion (S$273 billion) of goods would increase to 25 per cent on Friday from 10 per cent, reversing a decision he made in February to keep them at the 10 per cent rate thanks to progress between the two sides.
The President also said he would target a further US$325 billion of Chinese goods with 25 per cent tariffs "shortly," essentially covering all products imported to the US from China.
"The atmosphere of the negotiations has changed," said a Chinese official with knowledge of the situation.
Whether the talks proceed and how they proceed are issues that are now being re-evaluated, the official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
"All that depends on the attitude of the United States," the official said.
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