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China warns trade agreements 'void' if US imposes tariffs

Image: U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Chinese Vice Premier Liu He
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross talks to Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in Beijing, China on Sunday. Copyright POOL
Copyright POOL
By Saphora Smith and Associated Press and Reuters with NBC News World News
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Trump has been pressing Beijing to narrow its politically volatile trade surplus with the United States, which reached a record $375.2 billion last year.


China warned the United States on Sunday that any deals the two countries reach on trade will be void if President Donald Trump's threatened tariff hike on Chinese goods goes ahead.

The warning came after U.S.-Chinese delegations wrapped up their latest round of talks as part of a sprawling trade dispute between Beijing and Washington.

China released a statement warning that any achievements made during the talks should be "based on the premise" of not fighting a "trade war."

"If the United States introduces trade sanctions including tariffs, all the economic and trade achievements negotiated by the two parties will be void," said the statement, which was carried by the official Xinhua News Agency.

There was no immediate comment or statement from the U.S. delegation, which was led by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross talks to Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in Beijing, China on Sunday.POOL

Ross had previously said the two parties had discussed which specific U.S. exports China might purchase. But the negotiations ended with no joint statement and neither side released further details.

Ross is expected to leave Beijing later on Sunday.

Trump has been pressing Beijing to narrow its politically volatile trade surplus with the U.S., which reached a record $375.2 billion last year.

But the White House threw the status of the talks into doubt this week by renewing a threat to impose 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese high-tech goods in response to complaints Beijing steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology. The event went ahead despite that but Beijing said it reserved its right to retaliate.

The Chinese statement on Sunday came after the U.S. also announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union on Thursday, prompting outrage from America's closest allies and major trading partners.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday slammed the White House's claim that it was imposing the tariffs to protect American national security interest.

"The idea that the Canadian steel that's in military, military vehicles in the United States, the Canadian aluminum that makes your, your fighter jets is somehow now a threat?" Trudeau said in an exclusive interview with "Meet the Press" moderator Chuck Todd, which took place in Trudeau's office in Parliament in the Canadian capital of Ottawa. "The idea that we are somehow a national security threat to the United States is quite frankly insulting and unacceptable."

Canada responded toTrump's announcement with retaliatory tariffs, taking "the strongest action Canada has taken in the post-war era," according to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Meanwhile, the U.S. was singled out by some of its closest allies on Saturday as they warned the tariffs will undermine open trade and weaken confidence in the global economy.

On Saturday, G7 finance ministers expressed their "concern and disappointment" over Trump's new levies on steel and aluminium imports, warning that they will undermine open trade and weaken confidence in the global economy.

G7 finance ministers urged the U.S. to abandon the tariffs ahead of the leaders' summit next week in Quebec.

"The international community is faced with significant economic and security issues, which are best addressed through a united front from G7 countries," ministers said in a joint summary issued by Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau, following a three-day meeting in Whistler, Canada.

Bruno Le Maire, France's finance and economy minister, was blunt in his assessment of the meeting, where ministers confronted Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.


"It has been a tense and tough G7 — I would say it's been far more a G6 plus one than a G7," said Le Maire, who called the tariffs unjustified.

Before the White House's threats this week, Chinese-U.S. trade tensions had appeared to ease after China promised on May 19 to "significantly increase" purchases of farm goods, energy and other products and services following the last round of talks in Washington.

Mnuchin had said the dispute was "on hold" and the tariff hike would be postponed. But that truce appeared to end with Tuesday's surprise announcement.

Elsewhere, Defense Secretary James Mattis rebuked China Saturday for its placement of weapon systems on manmade islands in the South China Sea.

Mattis, who was speaking at an international security forum in Singapore and who is due to visit Beijing this month, said: "China's policy in the South China Sea stands in stark contrast to the openness that our strategy promotes, it calls into question China's broader goals."


He Lei, the head of the Chinese delegation to the dialogue, said the islands were Chinese territory and it was "a sovereign and legal right for China to place our army and military weapons there."

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