No sense for US to exercise maximum pressure, says China as trade meeting ends

File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters Beijing Jul 31, 2019, 02.21 PM (IST)

Talks between US and Chinese trade officials seeking ways to end a year-long trade war lasted barely half a day before ending on Wednesday with a terse response from China's foreign ministry to US President Donald Trump's warning not to stall.

As US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had landed in Shanghai on Tuesday as Trump accused Beijing on Twitter of stalling, and warned of a worse outcome for China if it continued to do so.

"The problem with them waiting ... is that if & when I win, the deal that they get will be much tougher than what we are negotiating now ... or no deal at all," Trump had said on Twitter.

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Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, responding to a question about those tweets, said she was not aware of the latest developments during talks, but that it was clear it was the United States who continued to "flip flop".

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"I believe it doesn't make any sense for the US to exercise its campaign of maximum pressure at this time. It's pointless to tell others to take medication when you're the one who is sick," Hua told a news briefing.

This week's meetings, the first in-person trade talks since a G20 truce last month, amounted to a working dinner on Tuesday at Shanghai's historic riverfront Fairmont Peace Hotel and a half-day of negotiations on Wednesday. Neither team made immediate public comments.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, who leads the Chinese delegation, waved off Lighthizer, Mnuchin and other US officials as their motorcade pulled away from Shanghai's Xijiao State Guest Hotel following a group photo session that concluded around 1:45pm(local time), about 30 minutes before it was originally scheduled to begin.

A US government official told Reuters that the US officials were headed to the airport.

The trade war between the world's two largest economies has disrupted global supply chains and shaken financial markets as each side has slapped tariffs on billions of dollars of each other's goods.

An official Chinese government survey released on Wednesday showed China's factory activity shrank for the third month in a row in July, underlining the growing strains the row has placed on the No. 2 economy.

The Shanghai talks were expected to centre on "goodwill" gestures, such as Chinese commitments to purchase US agricultural commodities and steps by the United States to ease some sanctions on Chinese telecoms equipment giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, a person familiar with the discussions told Reuters earlier.

Those issues are somewhat removed from the more core US complaints in the trade dispute, including Chinese state subsidies, forced technology transfers and intellectual property violations.

Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed in June at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, to restart trade talks that stalled in May, after Washington accused Beijing of reneging on major portions of a draft agreement -- a collapse in the talks that prompted a steep US tariff hike on $200 billion of Chinese goods.

The US Commerce Department put Huawei on a national security blacklist in May, effectively banning US firms from selling to Huawei, a move that enraged Chinese officials.