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China’s former trade negotiator questions tariff strategy

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BEIJING: China's former top trade negotiator has questioned its strategy in the row with the United States, suggesting a policy disagreement in the Communist country.

Mr Long Yongtu, who paved the way for China's admission to the World Trade Organization (WTO), suggested the government erred by immediately retaliating against US tariffs by imposing levies on American soybeans.

"I hope when you start hitting back you'll avoid hitting agricultural products and leave them for last," Mr Long said he advised before the trade war started. "Instead from the very start we hit their agricultural products and soybeans," he said at a media business forum on Sunday.


China slapped 25 per cent tariffs on American soybeans - its single largest import from the US - and other products in July immediately after US President Donald Trump targeted Chinese imports.

The move was seen as an attack on Mr Trump's agricultural support base and tacitly acknowledged as such by Chinese officials.

"I said from my experience in China-US trade, agricultural products are very sensitive, soybeans are very sensitive," Mr Long said.

When China was negotiating its WTO entry, the US wanted to bring politics into the discussion, said Mr Long.

"But if you talk politics you will never reach a deal," he warned, recommending the world's top two economies engage narrowly on trade and avoid the larger strategic rivalry to strike a deal.

But former US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky cautioned that the gulf between the two powers was expanding.

"China's economy and economic policies have been on a divergent course from market economics... accelerating in the last four or five years," she said at the forum. - AFP