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China tries to tamp down US trade tensions

China's commerce minister sought to strike a conciliatory tone with its largest trading partner on Saturday. Minister Zhong Shan noted that US exports to China have increased 11 percent per year over the past decade.

China's minister of commerce warned Saturday that both sides would lose in a trade war with the United States.

Analysts say the threat of deteriorating US-China ties is likely to depress confidence of exporters and investors around the world.

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Economist: Trade war between US and China a 'clear and present danger'

"A trade war would not benefit either country or either country's people; you could say it would have no advantage whatsoever," Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan told reporters on the sidelines of the annual parliament session in Beijing.

"Many American and western friends think that China can't live without the United States but that's only half true."

"At the same time, the United States can't live without China," Zhong said, adding that in the past 10 years, the growth of US exports to China has outpaced the growth of Chinese exports to the United States.     

Zhong added that US exports to China have increased by an average of about 11 percent per year over that timeframe, while Chinese exports have only increased by 6.6 percent over the same period, noting that the Asian giant is also a major importer of American goods like soybeans, cars and Boeing airplanes.

"This clearly shows that China and America are very important to each other," he added.

Despite President Donald Trump's harsh rhetoric against existing trade deals, insisting that the US is getting the short end of the stick, many economists say Trump weakened the US and strengthened China when he withdrew the US from a massive Asia-wide trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP.  

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China braces itself for Trump era

Renegotiating trade relations

Zhong said that he looked forward to meeting his US counterpart Wilbur Ross.

Billionaire investor Ross was sworn in as US commerce secretary in February after helping shape President Donald Trump's opposition to multilateral trade deals.

He is expected to start work on renegotiating trade relationships with China and Mexico.

"I am aware that Mr. Ross is an outstanding businessman and an experienced negotiator, an excellent person," Zhong told the journalists. "I am willing to deal with excellent people because excellent people play the long game and think strategically."

But China's foreign trade outlook is under pressure and faces considerable risk and uncertainty, Zhong added.

Watch video 01:39

Consequences of US TPP withdrawal

China's exports for January and February combined rose 4 percent from the same period last year, while imports surged more than 26 percent, suggesting solid improvement in demand domestically and abroad.

But the export outlook for China and other trade-reliant economies is being clouded by fears of growing US protectionism.

Zhong also spoke about China's growing outbound investment, noting that a small number of Chinese companies had invested overseas "blindly and irrationally" in ways China did not encourage. He said the government would step up regulation around such investments.

China is the world's biggest trader in goods. It accounts for about $350 billion (327 billion euros) of the US trade deficit.

bik/jlw (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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