China ready for further U.S. trade talks, ambassador says

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FILE PHOTO: China's ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai responds to reporters questions during an interview with Reuters in Washington, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo

WASHINGTON/BEIJING (Reuters) – Beijing is ready to resume trade talks with Washington, China’s ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai said, as a top U.S. business lobby in China said nearly half its members are seeing non-tariff barrier retaliation in China due to the trade war.

No further trade talks between top Chinese and U.S. negotiators have been scheduled since the last round ended in a stalemate on May 10, the same day U.S. President Donald Trump sharply increased tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods and took steps to levy duties on all remaining Chinese imports.

Acrimony has intensified since Washington last week blacklisted Chinese telecom equipment company Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, a potentially devastating blow for the company that has rattled technology supply chains and investors.

Another big Chinese tech firm, video surveillance equipment maker Hikvision Digital Technology Co Ltd, could also face limits on its ability to buy U.S. technology, the New York Times reported, citing people familiar with the matter, sending the firm’s Shenzhen-listed shares 10 percent lower at the opening on Wednesday.

Negotiations between the United States and China have soured dramatically since early May, when Chinese officials sought major changes to the text of a proposed deal that the Trump administration says had been largely agreed.

But speaking to Fox News Channel, Chinese Ambassador to Washington Cui Tiankai said Beijing was still open for talks.

“China remains ready to continue our talks with our American colleagues to reach a conclusion. Our door is still open,” Cui said on Tuesday.

He blamed the U.S. side for frequently “changing its mind” on tentative deals to end U.S.-China trade disputes.

Cui turned the tables and said it was U.S. negotiators that had abruptly backed away from some previous deals that had been tentatively agreed over the past year.

“It’s quite clear it is the U.S. side that more than once changed its mind overnight and broke the tentative deal already reached.” Cui said. “So we are still committed to whatever we agree to do, but it is the U.S. side that changed its mind so often.”

In June 2018, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross held negotiations with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He on an offer by China to increase its purchases of U.S. goods by around $70 billion, U.S. officials said at the time. But U.S. President Donald Trump did not accept the offer, choosing instead to begin imposing tariffs on Chinese goods.

This week, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged people to prepare for “a new Long March”, evoking the patriotic spirit of the 1934-36 route march of Communist Party members fleeing a brutal civil war to a remote rural base, where they re-grouped and eventually took power in 1949.

Xi did not draw a direct connection to the trade war, but financial market analysts interpreted his remarks as a sign that Beijing was girding for a protracted dispute with Washington.

U.S. firms are beginning to face retaliation in China for the trade war.

The American Chamber of Commerce of China and its sister body in Shanghai, citing a recent survey of members on the impact of tariffs, said on Wednesday that members said they face increased obstacles such as government inspections, slower customs clearance and slower approval for licensing and other applications.

It also said that 40.7% of respondents were considering or had relocated manufacturing facilities outside China.

Of the almost 250 respondents to the survey, which was conducted after China and the United States both raised tariffs on each other’s imports earlier this month, almost three-quarters said the impact of tariffs was hurting their competitiveness.

To cope, around one third of companies said they were increasingly focusing their China operations on producing for Chinese customers and not for export, while another one-third said they were delaying and cancelling investment decisions.

Long considered a solid cornerstone in a relationship fraught with geopolitical frictions, the U.S. business community in China in recent years has advocated a harder line on what it sees as discriminatory Chinese trade policies.

The United States is seeking sweeping changes to China’s trade and economic policies, including an end to forced technology transfers and theft of U.S. trade secrets. Washington also wants curbs on subsidies for Chinese state-owned enterprises and increased access to U.S. markets.

Cui told Fox News Channel that U.S. restrictions on Huawei “are without any foundation and evidence” and could undermine the normal functioning of markets.

“Everybody knows Huawei is a privately owned company. It is just a normal Chinese private company,” Cui said. “So all the action taken against Huawei are politically motivated.”