China has received an invitation from the United States to hold trade negotiations, the Ministry of Commerce said yesterday.
The confirmation was made by the ministry’s spokesman Gao Feng at a press conference in Beijing, saying China welcomes the attitude and the two countries are in discussion about the details.
“Recently, the negotiation teams of the two sides have maintained contact in various forms and had exchanges on each other’s concerns,” Gao said, stressing that China believes an escalation of the trade conflict goes against everyone’s interests.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China welcomes the invitation and the two countries are discussing the details.
“China has always held that an escalation of the trade conflict is not in anyone’s interests. In fact, from last month’s preliminary talks in Washington, the two sides’ trade talk teams have maintained various forms of contact and held discussions on the concerns of each side,” he said.
Larry Kudlow, who heads the White House Economic Council, told Fox Business Network on Wednesday that US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had sent an invitation to senior Chinese officials, but he declined to provide further details.
“Secretary Mnuchin, who is the team leader with China, has apparently issued an invitation. Talking is better than not talking, so I regard this as a plus,” Kudlow said.
The last talks, between mid-level US and Chinese officials on August 22 and 23 in Washington, ended without any agreement.
Responding to possible US additional levies on all Chinese imports, Gao said the US unilateral tariff hikes will ultimately harm the interests of the people of China, the US and the whole world.
The US has ignored opposition from the vast number of industry representatives and consumers and continued to release news that may lead to an escalation of trade frictions, Gao said.
“This practice of blackmail and pressure does not work on China and will not help solve the problem,” Gao said.
China hopes the US will follow the people’s will and adopt pragmatic measures to bring China-US economic and trade relations back to normal through equal and honest dialogue and consultation, Gao said.
When answering a question about the US threat to punish Chinese companies using the excuse of intellectual property theft, Gao said China hopes the US can treat the business activities of Chinese companies objectively and fairly.
“We hope the United States won’t chase the wind and clutch at shadows, and does not seek excuses for its trade protectionism, so as to avoid making global companies, including Chinese ones, lose confidence in the business environment of the United States,” Gao said.
The invitation comes amid a swelling chorus of opposition to tariffs from Western business circles.
The US business lobbies AmCham China and AmCham Shanghai published a joint survey yesterday, showing pending US tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods will have a strong negative impact on US businesses in China.
“This survey affirms our concerns: tariffs are already negatively impacting US companies and the imposition of a proposed US$200 billion tranche will bring a lot more pain,” said Eric Zheng, chairman of AmCham Shanghai.
“If almost a half of American companies anticipate a strong negative impact from the next round of US tariffs, then the US administration will be hurting the companies it should be helping,” he said.
Among over 430 companies responding to the survey, close to two thirds said they have suffered lost sales or lower profits since the two governments imposed 25 percent tariffs of US$50 billion on each other’s goods.
About 74.3 percent said they would be affected if Washington’s tariff increase on US$200 billion of Chinese goods goes ahead. Some 67.6 percent said the same of China’s planned retaliatory tariffs.
The survey was conducted between August 29 and September 5.
Businesses have been affected in several ways, with 47.1 percent of members listing increased costs of manufacturing and 41.8 percent listing decreased demand for products as the two most significant downsides, according to the report.
Only 11.8 percent of respondents have reduced employees, but the second tranche of tariffs will most likely raise this percentage.
Meanwhile, some companies said they are considering delaying or canceling investment decisions. But the majority, nearly two thirds of respondents, have not relocated and are not considering relocating manufacturing facilities out of China.
Among those who are planning to, the top destinations are Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Only 6 percent say they are considering relocation back to the US, according to the report.
The White House has threatened to fire the next barrage of tariffs at US$200 billion more Chinese goods, but risks underestimating China’s capability to continue meeting fire with fire, said William Zarit, chairman of AmCham China. “The US administration runs the risk of a downward spiral of attack and counterattack, benefiting no one.”
The member companies of AmCham, from a range of industries and locations across China, have spoken loud and clear: American companies are suffering both from China’s retaliatory tariffs, and — ironically — from US tariffs designed to help them. Additional tariffs will only do further damage.
AmCham China and AmCham Shanghai urged the Trump administration to rethink its approach.
“We believe that the outcome of any negotiations should be a level economic playing field and bilateral trading relationship based on fairness and equal treatment,” they said.
The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China released its own survey yesterday, saying the tariffs were causing “significant disruptions” to global supply chains and “seriously impacting” non-Chinese and non-American companies.
A day earlier, more than 60 US industry groups launched a coalition, Americans for Free Trade, to take the fight against the tariffs public.