China not culprit in US trade stance

China's Ministry of Commerce said the United States should not use China as an excuse for American protectionist policies.

China’s Ministry of Commerce said the United States should not use China as an excuse for American protectionist policies.

All appropriate measures will be taken by China to defend its interests, ministry spokesman Gao Feng reiterated at a regular press briefing yesterday.

“China urges the United States to stop its unilateralism and trade protectionist practices,” Gao said.

In response to a question that China’s opening-up of its markets had not matched American expectations, Gao said China has fulfilled its commitments in a serious and comprehensive manner, and its markets had continued to open up since the country joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

China’s overall tariff levels have been reduced from 15.3 percent to 9.8 percent, fulfilling the commitments to all the WTO members and exceeding WTO’s requirements for developing members.

If considering the factors of the trade structure, China’s real trade-weighted average tax rate is only 4.4 percent, which is very close to that of developed countries, Gao said.

He said America’s trade-weighted actual import tariff rate is 2.4 percent, and that of the European Union and Australia are 3 percent and 4 percent respectively.

Besides, he added, China has voluntarily reduced import duties on some goods in recent years, further lowering import tariffs for 201 information technology products.

“What I want to stress is that a series of measures adopted by the US on China’s economic and trade issues are typical trade protectionism,” Gao said. “It is out of the Cold War mentality and zero-sum mentality of the US, and China should not be taken as an excuse of this.”

In 2017, China’s total foreign trade in goods exceeded US$4.1 trillion, of which exports to the US accounted for 14.1 percent. And China’s foreign non-financial direct investment was US$120 billion, with US$7.8 billion being invested in the US, accounting for 6.5 percent.

“China is confident that it is able to cope with any form of trade or investment protectionist practices,” Gao said.

He emphasized that China urges the US to stop its trade protectionist legislation, which is a “flagrant violation” of WTO rules and shows contempt and trampling of multilateral rules.

It could also trigger trade protectionism elsewhere, casting a shadow over the resurgent global economy, Gao said.

China released a list of suspension of concessions products, hitting back against the US’s Section 232 investigations into aluminum and steel imports. The official implementation time will be announced after a public consultation period ends tomorrow.

China does not want a trade war with the US, but has no fear if there is one, Gao said.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on CNBC on Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods will not be imposed until June.

“We’ll announce them before very long and then we’ll go through a 60-day period where we’ll give the public a chance to comment on the good and the bad things in there,” Lighthizer said. 

He added “there is hope” that trade talks between the US and China could lead to a fruitful outcome when he was asked whether negotiations between Washington and Beijing could avoid a tariff war.

Meanwhile, the China Iron and Steel Association has expressed its hope to better communicate with industrial associations and companies in the European Union and elsewhere in order to maintain stability in the world steel market.

The statement from CISA came after the EU also began a probe into imported steel. The EU decision will add to market anxiety and instability, in a situation already complicated by the US action.

Chinese steel manufacturers have been reducing their production capacity, and the global steel market is recovering. “The measures taken by the United States and the EU could cause chaos,” said Liu Zhenjiang, CISA secretary-general.

“We hope the EU will evaluate the impact of US tariffs and take measures prudently,” said Liu.

CISA also urged the Chinese government to take measures to prevent the domestic market from being hurt by imported steel and protect the interests of local steel manufacturers.

The US government’s decision to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum “goes against the rules of the World Trade Organization and disrupts international trade order,” said Liu. 

The US move damages not only the world iron and steel industry, but also the interests of consumers, especially American consumers, he said. 

The industrial group noted that the steel trade has caused most China-US trade friction in the past few years.

Even before the US started its Section 232 investigation, dozens of anti-dumping and countervailing measures had been imposed on Chinese steel products. 

On March 19, the US International Trade Commission terminated an investigation into Chinese steel products for violation of antitrust laws. “After 20 months of hard efforts, we won the case by proving all three allegations to be insubstantial,” said a CISA statement at the time.

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