China’s latest tariff threat a ‘necessary and justified’ move, Wang Yi says

Foreign minister responds to White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, asking does the US ‘want China to take stronger countermeasures?’

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 August, 2018, 5:43pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 August, 2018, 5:32pm

China’s foreign minister on Saturday described Beijing’s threat to impose retaliatory tariffs on US$60 billion of American goods as “necessary” and “justified”.

“This is a necessary and a justified response, it’s in the interests of the Chinese people,” Wang Yi said on the sidelines of a meeting with Asean foreign ministers in Singapore.

He was responding to top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow ridiculing China on Friday for its “weak” tariff threat and saying the world’s second-largest economy was in significant “trouble”.

“Do they want China to take stronger countermeasures against them?” Wang said.

“As to whether China’s economy is doing well or not, I think it is all too clear to the whole international community,” Wang said, adding that China contributed a huge amount to global economic growth.

“I don’t see why he would come to the conclusion that China’s economy is not doing well.”

Wang made the remarks after Beijing on Friday said it would impose tariffs ranging from 5 to 25 per cent on US$60 billion worth of American products. That was in response to the latest US threat to slap duties on US$200 billion of Chinese goods, and to raise those tariffs from 10 per cent to 25 per cent.

The latest escalation in the trade tussle suggests talks between the two countries have yet to lead to any meaningful breakthroughs. Sources in Washington and Beijing with knowledge of the matter told the South China Morning Post earlier that unofficial discussions resumed last week, but that progress had been hampered by mistrust on both sides.

Wang also said the move was also aimed at upholding the “global free trade regime” that was underpinned by the World Trade Organisation.

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State-run Global Times on Saturday described Beijing’s latest retaliatory move as “restrained”.

“China’s countermeasures are rational,” the tabloid run by Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily said in an editorial. “China will not rush to compete with the US numbers,” it said, echoing comments made on state television about the latest tariffs.

Speaking at a separate press conference in Singapore earlier on Saturday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated US pressure on China would not falter.

“President Trump inherited an unfair trade regime where American workers in American companies are not treated reciprocally or fairly by the Chinese, and efforts of the Trump administration are to right that, to correct that, to adjust that,” he said.

Pompeo added that he had discussed trade issues with Wang, who is also a state councillor, on Friday.

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Meanwhile, Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said he had met Pompeo in Singapore and that his message was clear.

“My objective was quite straightforward – I think I need to inform him that we are very concerned,” Abdullah said.

Countries like Malaysia form an integral part of Chinese exporters’ supply chains, and analysts have warned a trade war could knock billions of dollars off their economic growth in coming years.

Additional reporting by Catherine Wong, Reuters