By Cate Cadell
BEIJING (Reuters) – The United States cannot use pressure to force a trade deal on China, a senior Chinese official and trade negotiator said on Sunday, refusing to be drawn on whether the leaders of the two countries would meet at the G20 summit to bash out an agreement.
Trade tensions escalated sharply last month after U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration accused China of having “reneged” on its previous promises to make structural changes to its economic practices.
Washington later slapped additional tariffs of up to 25% on $200 billion (£158 billion) of Chinese goods, prompting Beijing to retaliate.
Speaking at a hastily arranged news conference, Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen said it was irresponsible of the United States to accused China of backtracking.
“If the U.S. side wants to use extreme pressure, to escalate the trade friction, to force China to submit and make concessions, this is absolutely impossible,” said Wang, who has been part of China’s negotiating team.
Switching into English, he said: “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.
Trump has said he is going to meet with President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Osaka at the end of the month, though China has consistently refused to say they have agreed to this.
Wang was equally taciturn.
“I don’t have any information on this to provide,” he said, when asked if Xi would meet Trump in Japan.
The United States overestimates the trade deficit between the two countries and China should not be blamed for job losses in the U.S. manufacturing sector, Wang said.
The U.S. goods and services deficit with China is actually closer to $150 billion and not the $410 billion quoted by U.S. officials. China’s processing trade with the United States should not be included in trade deficit calculations, he added.
Wang also said China does not instruct domestic companies to acquire certain projects and technology. The U.S. has complained about Chinese theft of intellectual property, which Beijing has called a “political tool” to suppress China’s development.
Wang said the commerce ministry is investigating reports of delays in customs checks and will make efforts to cut the length of customs checks and reduce costs for importers.
Wang said that it is “unacceptable” if some countries use rare earths from China to create products that limit China’s development, and he said Beijing is willing to meet other countries’ requirements for rare earth consumption.
Wang was speaking at the unveiling of a new government policy paper on the trade war, though the document mostly reiterated previous Chinese talking points.
However, it did say that China was confident in being able to sustain economic growth amid the dispute.
(Reporting by Cate Cadell; Writing by Andrew Galbraith in SHANGHAI; editing by Darren Schuettler)