China warns US trade benefits at risk

Martin Quin Pollard and Ben Blanchard
China has warned the US a move to impose tariffs on it would endanger the countries' mutual trade

China has warned the United States that any agreements reached on trade and business between the two countries will be void if Washington implements tariffs and other trade measures, as the two ended their latest round of talks in Beijing.

A short statement, carried by the official Xinhua news agency, made no mention of any specific new agreements after US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross met Chinese Vice Premier Liu He.

It referred instead to a consensus they reached last month in Washington, when China agreed to increase significantly its purchases of US goods and services.

"To implement the consensus reached in Washington, the two sides have had good communication in various areas such as agriculture and energy, and have made positive and concrete progress," the state news agency said on Sunday, adding details would be subject to "final confirmation by both parties".

The US and China have threatened tit-for-tat tariffs on goods worth up to $US150 billion ($A198 billion) each.

Xinhua said China's attitude had been consistent and that it was willing to increase imports from all countries, including the US.

"Reform and opening up and expanding domestic demand are China's national strategies. Our established rhythm will not change," it added.

"The achievements reached by China and the United States should be based on the premise that the two sides should meet each other halfway and not fight a trade war," Xinhua said.

"If the United States introduces trade sanctions including raising tariffs, all the economic and trade achievements negotiated by the two parties will be void."

There was no immediate comment or statement from the US delegation or from Ross himself.

At the end of last month's Washington talks the two countries released a joint statement.

But just when it appeared a trade truce between the two economic heavyweights was on the cards, the White House last week warned it would pursue tariffs on $US50 billion worth of Chinese imports, as well as impose restrictions on Chinese investments in the US and tighter export controls.

State-run Chinese newspaper the Global Times said in an editorial on its website that China needed to prepare for the long haul due to the US propensity for changing its mind and coming up with new demands.

"Tariffs and expanding exports - the United States can't have both," it said. "China-US trade negotiations have to dig up the two sides' greatest number of common interests, and cannot be tilted toward unilateral US interests."

Xinhua said in a separate commentary that the US should not test China with any further flip-flops or provocations.

"The Chinese government's attitude of not wanting but also not fearing a trade war has never changed," it said.

Ross arrived in Beijing on Saturday for talks after the Trump administration renewed tariff threats against China, and with key US allies in a foul mood towards Washington after they were hit with duties on steel and aluminium.