US seeks big trade surplus cut from China

The Trump administration is pressing China to cut its trade surplus with the United States by $US100 billion, a White House spokeswoman said, clarifying a tweet last week from President Donald Trump.

Trump had tweeted that China had been asked to reduce its trade imbalance with the United States by $US1 billion, but the spokeswoman said Trump had meant to say $US100 billion.

The United States had a record $375 billion trade deficit with China in 2017, while China reported a US trade surplus as $US276 billion.

The White House spokeswoman declined to provide details about how the administration would like China to accomplish the surplus-cutting goal -- whether increased purchases of US products would suffice, or whether it wants China to make major changes to its industrial policies, cut subsidies to state-owned enterprises or further reduce steel and aluminium capacity.

The request comes as the Trump administration is said to be preparing tariffs on imports of up to $US60 billion worth of Chinese information technology, telecoms and consumer products as part of a US investigation into China's intellectual property practices.

In a Thursday editorial, widely-read Chinese state-run tabloid the Global Times said the United States was trying to play the victim.

"If the US wants to reduce its trade deficit, it has to make Americans more hard-working and conduct reforms in accordance with international market demand, instead of asking the rest of the world to change," it wrote.

"Once a trade war starts, capable countries won't bow to the US China has tried hard to avoid a trade war, but if one breaks out, appeasement is not an option."

Separately, Washington on Wednesday launched a WTO legal challenge to India's export subsidies for domestic companies, including producers of steel, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, textiles and IT products.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said India had failed to remove the subsidies as required by WTO rules after the country reached certain economic benchmarks.

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