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Trade talks: China asks US to meet it halfway, denies backtracking

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Beijing appeals to US to salvage trade deal

BEIJING: China appealed to the US to meet it halfway to salvage a deal that could end their trade war, with its chief negotiator in Washington for two days of talks hoping to stave off US tariff increases set to be triggered today.

The two sides had appeared to be converging on a deal until recently, when US President Donald Trump announced his intention to hike tariffs with his negotiators saying that China was backtracking on earlier commitments.

"The US side has given many labels recently, 'backtracking', 'betraying' etc... China sets great store on trustworthiness and keeps its promises, and this has never changed," Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said in Beijing yesterday.

Mr Gao said it was normal for both sides to have disagreements during negotiating.

Speaking to supporters at a rally in Florida on Wednesday, Mr Trump said China "broke the deal" and vowed not to back down on imposing new tariffs on Chinese imports unless Beijing "stops cheating our workers".

A protracted trade war between the world's two largest economies would be damaging for global economic growth, and investors pulled their money out of stock markets this week as fears that the prospective agreement was unravelling.

Mr Gao said the decision to send the delegation led by Vice-Premier Liu He to the US despite the tariff threat demonstrated China's "utmost sincerity".

"We hope the US can meet China halfway, take care of each others' concerns and resolve existing problems through cooperation and consultations," he said.

He said it was normal to have disagreements during a negotiating process, and urged the US to resist taking unilateral action, while warning China was fully prepared to defend its interests.

"China's attitude has been consistent, and China will not succumb to any pressure," Mr Gao said.

"China has made preparations to respond to all kinds of possible outcomes."

The US Trade Representative's office said tariffs on US$200 billion (S$270 billion) of Chinese goods would rise to 25 per cent from 10 per cent at 12.01am (12.01pm, Singapore time) today, during the talks in Washington.

The tariffs would target chemicals, building materials, furniture and some consumer electronics among other goods.

Mr Trump also threatened on Sunday to levy tariffs on an additional US$325 billion of China's goods, on top of the US$250 billion of its products already hit by import taxes.

Chinese state media yesterday published and aired reports quoting US-based organisations and individuals critical of Mr Trump's decision to raise tariffs.

"China is well-prepared for an escalation in trade tensions. A variety of plans are in place, such as countermeasures for any tariff rise, and favourable policies to minimise losses for Chinese enterprises," the Global Times, a tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party's People's Daily, said in an editorial. - REUTERS