The Mercury

Manoeuvres at G7 to ease increasing trade war tensions between the US and China

- BY JEFF MASON AND YAWEN CHEN

THE US AND China sought to ease trade war tensions yesterday, with Beijing calling for calm and US President Donald Trump predicting a deal after markets fell in response to new tariffs from both countries.

Trump, speaking on the sidelines of the G7 summit of world leaders in France, said Chinese officials had contacted US trade counterpar­ts overnight and offered to return to the negotiatin­g table.

Vice-Premier Liu He, who has been leading the talks with Washington, said yesterday that China was willing to resolve the trade dispute through “calm” negotiatio­ns and resolutely opposed the escalation of the conflict.

Trump welcomed that language and, days after referring to President Xi Jinping as an enemy, heaped praise on his Chinese counterpar­t.

“They want calm, and that’s a great thing, frankly. And one of the reasons that he’s a great leader, President Xi, and one of the reasons that China’s a great country is they understand how life works,” Trump said.

“China called last night our top trade people and said ‘Let’s get back to the table’, so we’ll be getting back to the table, and I think they want to do something,” he said.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokespers­on Geng Shuang said he had not heard that a phone call between the two sides had taken place. However, China’s Commerce Ministry typically releases statements on trade calls. It did not respond to a request for comment.

When pressed on whether a call had taken place, Trump emphasised Liu’s comments. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said there had been contact between the two sides, but declined to say with whom.

Hu Xijin, editor of the state-controlled Global Times newspaper, tweeted: “Based on what I know, Chinese and US top negotiator­s didn’t hold phone talks in recent days. The two sides have been keeping contact at technical level, it doesn’t have significan­ce that President Trump suggested. China didn’t change its position. China won’t cave (in) to US pressure.”

The increasing­ly bitter trade war between the world’s two largest economies escalated on Friday, with both sides levelling more tariffs on exports.

Trump announced an additional duty on some $550 billion (R8.37 trillion) of targeted Chinese goods, hours after China unveiled retaliator­y tariffs on $75bn worth of US goods.

On Sunday, the White House said Trump regretted not raising the tariffs even more. But the president also appeared to back off of his threat to order US companies out of China.

Liu, Xi’s top economic adviser, speaking at a conference in southwest China’s Chongqing, said: “We are willing to resolve the issue through consultati­ons and co-operation in a calm attitude and resolutely oppose the escalation of the trade war.

“We believe the escalation of the trade war is not beneficial for China, the US, nor to the interests of the people of the world.”

The trade war has damaged global growth and raised market fears the world economy will tip into recession. | Reuters

 ?? ANDREW HARNIK AP ?? PRESIDENT Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel participat­e in a bilateral meeting at the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, yesterday. |
ANDREW HARNIK AP PRESIDENT Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel participat­e in a bilateral meeting at the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, yesterday. |

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