Trade war will be ‘harmful for all’ China’s Vice-Premier Han Zheng says

Protectionism goes against the trend and ‘will lead to nowhere’, senior official tells business forum in Beijing

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 March, 2018, 2:58pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 March, 2018, 2:58pm

A senior Chinese official has warned that a trade war would be harmful for all involved and spark “greater conflict”, as tensions escalate over US President Donald Trump’s support for tariffs on imports of Chinese goods.

Addressing global business leaders at the China Development Forum in Beijing on Sunday, Vice-Premier Han Zheng called for negotiation and collaboration for the benefit of all sides, the official China Youth Daily reported.

“We believe trade protectionism, against the trend, will lead to nowhere. Unilateralism and a trade war will harm others without benefitting oneself … and invite greater conflict and a negative impact,” he was quoted as saying in his first public speech since being named as a vice-premier at the National People’s Congress last week.

Beijing has more weapons to use against US in a trade war, Chinese analysts say

Han did not elaborate or specifically name the US or Trump, but his remarks came just two days after Beijing hit back at Washington’s proposal to impose tariffs on US$60 billion worth of Chinese goods with a plan to apply duties to about US$3 billion worth of items imported from the US.

The move by the US came after an eight-month investigation into allegations that China had engaged in unfair trade practices, including forcing American investors to hand over key technologies to Chinese partners.

The retaliatory measures announced by China’s Ministry of Commerce include 25 per cent tariffs on eight categories of US goods, including pork and aluminium scrap, and 15 per cent duties on 120 types of products, including wine, apples, ethanol and stainless steel pipe.

While Beijing has urged Washington to negotiate a settlement, it also made clear it was willing to fight if needs be.

In what was the first high-level contact between the two governments since the White House revealed its proposal on Thursday, Vice-Premier Liu He told US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin over the telephone on Saturday that China was ready to defend its interests.

Also on Saturday, China’s official People’s Daily newspaper issued a warning of its own, suggesting that several American companies, including Apple, Boeing, Intel, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments, would be among the biggest losers in the event of a trade war.

Han called for all nations to “negotiate on an equal footing and collaborate” to promote the liberalisation of trade and investment.

Apple, Boeing, Qualcomm would be biggest losers in a China-US trade war, state media says

Beijing would continue to push ahead with the reform of its market economy and regarded the restructuring of its government as a “most urgent task”, he said.

Han promised also to cut Beijing’s direct intervention in the market “to the minimum” and greatly reduce the government’s allocation of resources.

He vowed to treat domestic and foreign companies equally, and protect their intellectual property rights and other interests.

Han said China had achieved great success over the past five years in cutting excess industrial capacity, and acknowledged the “outstanding” reforms made to the country’s steel and coal industries.