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Trump tells China to strike deal now

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President says it will be 'far worse' for Beijing to wait till after 2020 US election to continue trade talks

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump warned China on Saturday that it should strike a trade deal with the United States now, otherwise an agreement would be "far worse for them if it has to be negotiated in my second term."

Washington and Beijing are locked in a trade battle that has seen mounting tariffs, sparking fears the dispute will damage the global economy.

Two days of talks ended on Friday with no deal. China's top negotiator said the two sides would meet again in Beijing at an unspecified date, but warned that China would make no concessions on "important principles".

"I think that China felt they were being beaten so badly in the recent negotiation that they may as well wait around for the next election, 2020, to see if they could get lucky & have a Democrat win - in which case they would continue to rip-off the USA for $500 Billion a year," Mr Trump said in a tweet Saturday.

"The only problem is that they know I am going to win (best economy & employment numbers in U.S. history, & much more), and the deal will become far worse for them if it has to be negotiated in my second term. Would be wise for them to act now, but love collecting BIG TARIFFS!"

Mr Trump had accused Beijing of reneging on its commitments in trade talks and ordered new punitive duties, which took effect on Friday, on US$200 billion (S$273 billion) worth of Chinese imports, raising them to 25 per cent from 10 per cent.

He then ordered a tariff hike on almost all remaining imports - US$300 billion worth, according to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer - from the world's second-biggest economy.

Mr Trump also said Saturday that firms could easily avoid additional costs by producing goods in the United States.

"Such an easy way to avoid Tariffs? Make or produce your goods and products in the good old USA. It's very simple!" he tweeted, echoing a similar message he sent on Friday - and retweeted.

Only a week earlier, the US and China had seemed poised to complete a sweeping agreement.

Washington wants Beijing to tighten its intellectual property protections, cut its subsidies to state-owned firms and reduce the yawning trade deficit. China wants an end to tariffs as part of a "balanced" deal.

While supporters laud Mr Trump as a tough negotiator, free-trade-minded Republicans have warned that the tariffs could do real damage to the economy, and many farmers - including Mr Trump supporters - say the tariffs have hit their bottom line.

As the trade war spread, China imposed US$110 billion in duties on farm exports and other US goods.

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley cautiously welcomed the new tariffs but urged negotiators to reach a quick solution "so we can avoid prolonged tariffs, which we know have an impact on the US economy." - AFP