5 April 2018

China warns against 'trade war,' appeals for cooperation

John Bacon

Stocks around the world plunged Friday as investors feared that a trade conflict between the U.S. and China, the biggest economies in the world, would escalate. A second day of big losses pushed U.S. stocks to their worst week in two years. A top Chinese official bitterly decried a growing trade war with the United States on Sunday, saying the economic clash can only harm both nations. “A trade war serves the interests of none," Vice Premier Han Zheng said at the China Development Forum in Beijing. "Unilateralism and a trade war will harm others ... and invite greater conflict." Han, in his first speech since being appointed vice premier at the National People's Congress last week, urged negotiation and collaboration, the South China Morning Post reported.

Han did not mention the United States or President Trump. But Han's comments came days after Trump announced 25% tariffs on more than $50 billion in Chinese exports to the U.S., including machinery and information and communication technology. Earlier this month, Trump unveiled a global, 25% tariff on imported steel and 10% on aluminum.

The moves are aimed at easing a U.S. trade deficit with China that reached a record $375 billion in 2017. It also takes aim at Chinese cyber and intellectual property theft of U.S. technology.

Late last week, China struck back. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce announced a 15% tariff on 120 types of products, from fruits, nuts and wine to tubing. A 25% tariff was imposed on products on pork, recycled aluminum products and other goods.

Global financial markets have struggled in recent days amid fears of an expanding global trade war. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin attempted to ease those fears Sunday, downplaying the impact of the tariffs.

"I don't expect to see a big impact on the economy, we've been very careful on how we're doing this and what we're doing," Mnuchin told Fox News. "I think it's long-term very good for the economy."

In a phone call Saturday with Mnuchin, Chinese official Liu He warned Beijing is "ready and capable of defending its national interest," according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency. Liu urged both sides to "stay rational and work together."

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