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China warns US of retaliation over trade restrictions

China’s Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng

China has warned that it reserves the right to take retaliatory measures against the United States, which has moved ahead with a threat of trade restrictions against Chinese goods even as the two countries had earlier agreed to end a trade war with one another.

Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng said in a press conference on Thursday that the new US trade restrictions would be in contravention of World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.

He added, however, that Beijing was not willing to witness an escalation with Washington and that both countries had a huge potential for cooperation.

The warning by the Commerce Ministry came as Washington and Beijing prepared for weekend talks in the Chinese capital on American complaints concerning China’s trade surplus and Beijing’s promise to purchase more American goods.

Back to trade war?

On Tuesday, the White House announced in a statement that planned trade sanctions against China were still in the works despite an earlier announcement by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that the tariffs on Chinese goods were “on hold.”

The White House said that restrictions on Chinese investment, export controls, and 25 percent tariffs on as much as $50 billion in Chinese tech goods remained under development. It added that the final list of Chinese imports covered by the tariffs would be announced on June 15 and imposed shortly thereafter while details of the proposed investment restrictions and enhanced export controls would be announced on June 30.

That statement came as the two countries had just earlier agreed to negotiate and stop taking tit-for-tat trade measures against one another.

The public statement that Washington would go ahead with planned sanctions on Beijing was seen by some observers as an awkward pressure tactic during ongoing negotiations and just as China and America had both agreed to turn to the negotiating table instead of issuing threats back and forth.

On Wednesday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying also lashed out at the US’s unexpected stance, saying it was obviously contrary to the consensus reached between the two sides in Washington on May 20.

Hua said that in international relations, reneging on one’s word was a loss and would dent credibility.

A number of American lawmakers have been critical of US President Donald Trump and his handling of affairs with China. The lawmakers say Trump surrendered Washington’s leverage during this month’s talks with China without obtaining significant concessions from Beijing.

Few details from the talks have been publicly available.

Last Month, Trump initiated what was effectively a trade war with China when he announced unusually high tariffs on Chinese aluminum and steel imports. Beijing repeatedly cautioned against such a war but then took retaliatory action before the two sides agreed to resolve matters through talks.

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