Vice Premier Liu He says China ready to ′defend itself′ against US tariffs | News | DW | 24.03.2018
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Vice Premier Liu He says China ready to 'defend itself' against US tariffs

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He said the tariff plans violate international trade rules. Liu and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have held the highest-level exchange between the governments since the order was signed.

Vice Premier and economic supremo Liu He said China was "ready to defend itself" against US President Donald Trump's planned tariffs. Liu spoke on Saturday with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, according to China's Xinhua News Agency.

Liu said to Mnuchin that Trump's plan to level tariffs on nearly $50 billion (€40.4 billion) in Chinese imports violated international trade rules and that China was "ready and capable of defending its national interests and hopes both sides will remain rational," according to Xinhua.

An investigation under the 1974 US Trade Act has found that China engages in unfair trade practices by obliging US investors to turn over key technologies to Chinese firms, according to US officials.

However, Xinhua cited Liu as saying the investigation report "violates international trade rules and is beneficial to neither Chinese interests, US interests nor global interests."

He said that Trump's executive order was not beneficial to the US or the world's interests.
"China has already prepared, and has the strength, to defend its national interests," Liu said on Saturday.  

The call between Mnuchin and Liu was the highest-level exchange between the two governments since Trump signed Thursday's executive order directing US trade officials to levy tariffs on Chinese products.

Read more: Did Donald Trump really just launch a trade war with China?

The full list of items to be covered by the tariffs will be determined by the Trump administration over the next 15 days. It could include robotics, aerospace, maritime and modern rail equipment as well as electric vehicles and biopharma products.

Liu, a Harvard-trained economist, was named vice-premier at the ruling Communist Party congress in March and is a member of the politburo, deputy chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), chief of the General Office serving the Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs which is headed by President Xi Jinping. 

Liu He, economic czar and close aide to Chinese President Xi Jingping (picture alliance/AP Photo/M. Schiefelbein)

Liu He, economic czar and close aide to Chinese President Xi Jingping

Where would China retaliate?

Although Liu said his country still hoped both sides would remain "rational" and work to keep trade relations stable, Chinese state-run newspaper the Global Times said Beijing was only just beginning to look at ways to retaliate.

In an editorial on Saturday, the paper pointed to the agriculture sector, arguing that among the countermeasures "soybeans and other US farm products will be targeted."

Beijing unveiled on Friday a list of products that could face duties of up to 25 percent, such as fresh fruit, pork, nuts and wine. The pronouncement stopped short of making the tariffs official, stressing that China was ready to negotiate a "trade compensation agreement" with the US.

Read more: Opinion: Free trade and unwanted friends

US farmers concerned

On Friday, US farmers representing the pork-producing industry in Iowa, apple growers from Washington state and California winemakers expressed their deep disappointment over being caught in the center of a potential trade war with China.

Read more: US tariffs cast a dark shadow over China's economy

"No one wins in these tit-for-tat trade disputes, least of all the farmers and the consumers," said National Pork Producers Council President Jim Heimerl, a pig farmer from Johnstown, Ohio.

US farmers exported nearly $20 billion of goods to China in 2017. The American pork industry alone exported $1.1 billion in products, making China the third-largest market in the world for US pork.

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