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China Says It Doesn’t Know About U.S. Plans for Beijing Trade Talks

China’s Commerce Ministry denied knowing about U.S. plans to resume trade talks, deflecting remarks by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that American officials are likely to travel to Beijing soon for negotiations.

Mr. Mnuchin told a Senate committee Wednesday that the U.S. team is “l ikely to go to Beijing at some point in the near future.” The comments offered prospects for a return to talks after both sides spent the better part of a week trading recriminations over perceived backsliding in positions that left the negotiations at an impasse.

Asked by reporters about Mr. Mnuchin’s comments, Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said Thursday that “the Chinese side doesn’t have a grasp on the U.S. side’s plans to come to China for negotiations.” Mr. Gao then said the U.S.’s escalation of tariffs “severely hampered” consultations.

During the most recent round of negotiations last week in Washington, the U.S. raised tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25%, from 10%. It is considering higher levies on the roughly $300 billion in imports from China not yet covered by the punitive duties. China retaliated on Monday by raising tariffs on $60 billion in U.S. imports to much as 25%.

Adding to the tensions, the Trump administration on Wednesday banned the use of telecommunications gear from “foreign adversaries” and said it would add China’s Huawei Technologies Co. among others to a list of entities engaged in activities that are contrary to U.S. interests.

Mr. Gao decried the U.S.’s use of unilateral sanctions, a criticism echoed at a separate briefing by a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman on Thursday.

President Trump has said he plans to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in Japan at a Group of 20 summit in late June. That gives negotiators a timeline to work against to get negotiations back on track.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang laid out conditions for a return to negotiations. “First: principles. That means there has to be mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit. Second: good faith. One must match words with actions,” Mr. Lu told reporters. “There should be no flip-flopping.”

U.S. officials have said any deal should require Beijing to change some laws and include a strong enforcement mechanism, leaving some tariffs in place to ensure compliance.

On the Chinese side, Mr. Gao reiterated Beijing’s conditions for a deal: a lifting of all tariffs; a balanced text acceptable to China; and no “arbitrary changes” to the amount of U.S. products China will purchase as agreed to by Messrs. Xi and Trump in December. He didn’t specify that amount. U.S. officials have since said that China agreed to purchases of $1.2 trillion, over a six-year period.
Source: Dow Jones

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