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‘Do not even think about it’: Beijing refuses to give in to Trump’s latest threat on trade tariffs

07/5 2019 10:00

Official opinion in state media suggests US could be pushing for more from talks
Defiant Beijing says effect of increased tariffs would be ‘manageable and foreseeable’

Beijing will not make concessions in trade talks in response to Donald Trump’s latest tariff threats, Chinese state media said in a commentary published a day after the US president’s tweet.

“Things we think are advantageous for us, we will do it even without anyone asking,” the People's Daily reported on its WeChat account on Tuesday.

“Things that are unfavourable to us, no matter how you ask, we will not take any step back. Do not even think about it.”

The commentary was first published through Taoran Notes, a social media account used by Beijing to release trade talk information that reflected the leadership’s thoughts and is used to manage domestic expectations.

The piece was the first official Chinese opinion after Trump went on Twitter and announced plans to more than double the tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods because trade talks were going on “too slowly” for his liking.

His tweet, published hours before Asian markets opened on Monday, resulted in Chinese stock indexes posting their biggest daily losses in three years.

However, all Chinese state and major media outlets did not publish news of the development in Washington. Posts that involved screenshots of Trump’s tweets were censored on WeChat.

Trump’s escalation was a U-turn on trade talks that were described by Washington as “constructive” and close to a deal after a trade war that ravaged the global economy for almost a year.

“It was quite unexpected,” the Chinese piece said. “The US could be gesturing to flip the table to see if they could get more [from the talks].

“The low profile approach adopted by China in the early stage [of the trade war] shows that China is prepared for any scenario,” the commentary said.

“According to the [relative economic strengthens] of China and US and the trend of development, as long as we can focus on developing our country, no matter what Americans do, the negative impact on us would be manageable and foreseeable.”

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer confirmed that the US would carry out Trump's threat to increase tariffs on Chinese goods from 10 per cent to 25 per cent this Friday. He accused Beijing of “reneging on prior commitments” during the latest round of trade talks last week.

The Chinese foreign ministry said on Monday that Beijing would send envoys to Washington for trade talks, but did not specify on a time scale.

Beijing and Washington have been discussing a deal to end the trade war since the beginning of the year.

The US has called for China to make commitments to strengthen its protection of intellectual property, allow greater market access and change industrial policy, including the subsidies it provides to its state-owned industries.

It was reported that the two sides faced deadlock on agreeing to an enforcement mechanism.

While Trump agreed to suspend raising tariffs in February, in his latest tweets the president said he would also target a further US$325 billion of Chinese goods with 25 per cent tariffs “soon”, meaning nearly all Chinese exports to the US would be targeted.