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China warns against US unilateralism, says trade talks ‘impossible’ for now

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speaks at the Great Hall of People in Beijing on April 9, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Amid economic frictions between Beijing and Washington, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has warned that a looming trade war will not only be to the detriment of regional interests, but will also harm common interests of the entire global community.

US President Donald Trump initiated what could become a full-blown trade war between the US and China by imposing heavy tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from China.

Beijing retaliated by introducing tariffs of its own on a number of US products.

On Friday, Trump warned of tariffs on an additional $100 billion worth of Chinese imports, to which Beijing responded by saying it would stand firm.

Chinese leaders, along with observers, have repeatedly warned against a trade war; however, Beijing has also consistently said that it is ready to fight one if Washington proceeds with unilateral protectionist measures.

At a meeting with visiting United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres in Beijing, Li said unilateralism and trade protectionism should be rejected amid uncertainties in global economic conditions.

Li pointed out that challenging multilateralism with unilateralism amid global economic uncertainties constitutes a threat to global peace and stability, according to a statement issued by the country’s State Council, or cabinet, on Monday.

Li also said China will make efforts to further deepen reforms and protect the global free trade system.

‘Talks with US impossible for now’

In another development, Chinese Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on Monday responded to Trump’s tweet a day earlier that he saw an end to the trade dispute with Beijing, saying trade talks with the US are “impossible” for now.

Following his latest warning, Trump seemed to back off, tweeting on Sunday that “China will take down its trade barriers because it is the right thing to do.

“Up to now, Chinese and US officials have not held any negotiations on the trade dispute,” Geng said. “Under the current conditions, it is impossible for the two sides to have any negotiations on this issue.”

Earlier, China’s state newspaper had described the looming trade war as the front-line of the battle between an emerging China-led order of multilateralism and free trade, and US unilateralism and protectionism.

The Chinese ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily warned that in this battle with the US “China is ready to fight till the bitter end.”

In related news, Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Qian Keming warned that the global value chain could be disrupted by the US-initiated trade war.

Speaking at the Boao Forum for Asia on Monday in the southern province of Hainan, the Chinese official reiterated that Beijing did not want to fight a trade war, but was not afraid of one.

Meanwhile, China’s economy is reported to have maintained a strong and stable performance, signaling growth in 2018.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on Monday, the quality and performance of China’s industrial and service sectors continued to improve in the first two months of this year.

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